Bless You

On January 29, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Bless You Jan 29, 2017 Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Today’s gospel reading is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount which starts with the beatitudes. We started with verse 2 of Matthew 5, but let’s back up to the first verse – it sets the scene for the beatitudes and makes them even more […]

Bless You
Jan 29, 2017
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

Today’s gospel reading is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount which starts with the beatitudes. We started with verse 2 of Matthew 5, but let’s back up to the first verse – it sets the scene for the beatitudes and makes them even more relevant for us today.

Matthew 5 begins:
(1) When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
(2) He began to teach, them, saying…
(3) Blessed are the poor in spirit…
(4) Blessed are those who mourn…
And so on.
But before the blessings, we hear: “Jesus saw the crowds…”

He saw the people who gathered in desperation for a word of hope.
He saw people hurting and afraid.
He saw wounded people, marginalized people, people society had forgotten, or demonized.
He saw the poor, and the rejected, and the hard workers barely getting by.
He saw people who had lost their families, their dreams, their sense of self.
He saw refugees, and people who had been exploited, people who were different, despised, queer.
He saw people from various places, who worshiped in various ways, who had been treated as if they weren’t really human.

Before Jesus said anything, he SAW the people…he saw their pain, he saw their fear, he saw their need for encouragement.

Once he saw the people, Jesus then went up the mountain. In ancient literature mountain tops are the dwelling places of the gods. To go up a mountain is to enter into communion with the divine.

Once Jesus saw the hurting people, he had to take his awareness of their pain to the sacred altar of consciousness; he had to take what he saw into his heart, the dwelling place of the Most High.

He didn’t judge the people, or express fear of them or disdain for them, he saw them and then he WENT to the mountain; he went into communion with divine Love.

Once you really see pain it will break your heart and you will by necessity take that pain, other people’s and your own, into prayer, or however you commune with your fondest hopes and highest ideals.

Jesus saw the people’s pain and went into prayer.
And then he sat down.

When you speak to someone who is sitting and can’t stand, or when you visit someone who is lying down and can’t get up…you kneel down or bend down or sit nearby. You don’t tend to hover over those you care about and wish to comfort. You come down to them to share their experience, to let them know you are with them and your love for them is fully present.

Jesus saw. He went. He sat. And then he began to teach…he went to work offering comfort and encouragement and solidarity.

Jesus said some nice things in verses 3-12, but he didn’t say anything until he saw, and prayed, and got down on the level of people’s fears and hurts, and then he began doing what he could to help the people take heart.
He had to see them, care about them, and sit among them before he could help them.

That’s when he started calling out various conditions, and telling the people that their conditions didn’t define them. He told them they had sacred value that injustice and pain and cruelty could never take away.

And so he said…bless you who are poor in spirit, who feel as if even the energy of life is being stingy with you, who feel weighed down, broken down, overwhelmed, discarded, and unappreciated, you who feel not only poor in resources or poor in friendships or poor in opportunities but who feel as if your very existence is lacking…who are experiencing lack and want and destitution so gravely that it has infected your spirit…I declare that the kin-dom of God, the blessed community, the interconnected web of existence, the love that holds the universe together is YOURS. You’ve been called everything but a miracle, but I say you are blessed, the kin-dom of God is yours, I say you are God’s miracle and NOT God’s mistake!

And you who have experienced loss…loss of dignity, loss of loved ones, loss of home, loss of status, loss of security, loss of recognition as a beloved child of God…I affirm that you are blessed! You are grieving but there is comfort for you. The kin-dom of God is yours and in the kin-dom of God, you are never alone.

Bless you who feel meek and weak – you are stronger than you know!

Those of you who ache for justice, who have been denied equal opportunity and equal protection, who have been abused and vilified because of your race or ethnicity or nationality or religion or gender identity or sexual orientation…those of you who desire and deserve, who long for, who ache for justice, justice is on the way.
It may take a while, it make take a great deal of effort, it may involve some sacrifice, there may be setbacks, justice may be denied for a time but not for all time. To quote one who would come centuries after Jesus, the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice!

Oh, bless you who are merciful; you will see God’s face in your own mirror.

Bless you who work for peace; you are doing God’s own work!

Bless the justice seekers and justice workers who are persecuted for daring to take a stand for fairness; you are the very fabric of the kin-dom of God.

And those who dare to embrace and try to live into this message, you may become targets. Prophetic communities have always been targeted, those who challenge injustice have always been attacked, but you are on the side of righteousness, you are on the side of love, you are on the side of the ancestors who challenged kings and conquerors, you stand in the tradition of those who stood up to oppressive forces and cried out, “Let my people go!”

Today, the great liberators would say, “Let my people in.” Well, in fact, Jesus did say that in Matthew 11.28, “Come unto me ALL who labor and are heavy burdened and I will refresh you.”

We who dare to claim the banner of Christ must never blaspheme the name of Christ with indifference or intolerance toward the suffering children of God…no matter what they look like, who they love, or how they worship. Come unto me all…all…

My dear friends, let us be among the blessed who show mercy, who work for justice, who work for peace…let us endeavor to follow the example of the one who saw people’s pain, who took their pain into prayer, who chose to sit among them in their pain, and who began to do what he could to make a difference.

And to the hurting, the disenfranchised, wherever you are…we are sending you this message as a beacon of hope. We see you. We care. We are praying for you. And the Sunshine Cathedral is one place where you will always be welcomed with the love of God…if nowhere else, then here. And this is the good news. Amen.

© Durrell Watkins 2017

I am blessed!
I will share my blessings to help others.
May I be a conduit through which God’s healing love flows.
Amen.

Broken Nets

On January 22, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Broken Nets Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Jan 22, 2017 John the baptizer offered a baptism of repentance – a ritual that invited people into new ways of thinking, of embracing new attitudes, and symbolizing a fresh start. When John was executed, Jesus didn’t take up that ritual, but he did, the story goes, take up […]

Broken Nets
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Jan 22, 2017

John the baptizer offered a baptism of repentance – a ritual that invited people into new ways of thinking, of embracing new attitudes, and symbolizing a fresh start.

When John was executed, Jesus didn’t take up that ritual, but he did, the story goes, take up the message: Change your thinking, improve your attitude, the time is always right for a fresh start.

In the language of the story, he said, “turn to God because the realm of heaven is near.” Put more succinctly, we could say, “become aware of God’s nearness and let that awareness encourage you.”
But Jesus didn’t just say it – he showed it.
St. Francis of Assisi supposedly said, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”

So, Matthew tells us that Jesus preached a message of repentance, of turning from one frame of mind to another…but how did he do it? How did he help people turn from fear to hope, from suspicion to inclusion, from devastation to celebration? Jesus didn’t just talk about it, he lived it. Matthew shows us Jesus interacting with strangers who would become instant, lifelong, and very dear friends.

The gospel story today says that Jesus was taking a walk and happened upon Peter and Andrew. They were fishing. Now, why were they fishing? Aren’t we all fishing, looking for meaning, trying to snag significance?

Jesus finds Peter and Andrew and says, “You want meaning? Come with me? I’ll show you how to build community. In relationship with one another is where we find common purpose, shared hope, and renewed joy.”
I’ll make you fishers of people means, “let’s build community.”

Next Jesus finds James and John mending their broken fish nets.
He sees them mending their broken nets and says, “come, join us!” And they didn’t even finish repairing the nets. They just jumped up and joined the party.

They had broken nets…brokenness. And they didn’t have to have their nets perfectly in order to join the team. They didn’t have to wait until their nets were perfect. Just as they were they were welcome. They dropped their nets, that is, they stopped focusing on what seemed to be lacking and just joined the party.
Jesus said, “come with us!” And they did. Simple as that.

Notice what Jesus did in the story.
He saw people…people fishing, longing, wishing, searching…and he invited them to continue their search in community. “Come with me and we’ll fish for people, we’ll build community together.”

He saw people trying to mend their broken nets…trying to cope with their brokenness, their disappointments, their weariness, their fears, their regrets. And he says to them, “hey, stop fretting over the broken bits…just come with us.” And they did.

Jesus saw people, affirmed them, acknowledged them, and welcomed them into relationship, into community. And in that community he shared his message of the omnipresence of divine Love, and as people joined the community they found healing.

We all have wounds that need to be healed, fears that need to relieved, regrets that need to be released, and as we find loving, supportive community such healing takes place…at very least, it can begin.

A few years ago Robert and I met a lovely couple from Pennsylvania on a cruise in the Caribbean. We bonded instantly. We became dear friends, visiting them in their home when the wife was recovering from an illness, staying in touch with them, grieving when the wife died, continuing to stay in touch with the husband. Lives are enriched when they connect deeply with other lives.

On a transatlantic cruise Robert and I met two retired Southern Baptist school teachers. They didn’t know what to make of us at first, but soon we became friends, laughing together, sharing stories and learning about each other’s lives. Every year on the anniversary of that cruise, one of those ladies texts us to remind us of what a good time we all had together. What a remarkable blessing.

And last week, almost 50 of us from Sunshine Cathedral cruised together to the Bahamas. Most of us knew one another pretty well, but now, even better.
And you know what else? We met new people…people from Tallahassee, people from Orlando, people from DC, people from Eastern Europe, someone from Honduras, people from Canada…beautiful people, dear people, sweet people, people who were drawn to our shared joy and who added to it.
Not everyone appreciated us…some were annoyed because of who we were,
some were annoyed because we were always so happy together,
but some saw the joy, the love, the sharing and wanted to be part of it…and we said, “Come on in, the water is warm; you’re just what we needed to make this great party, perfect.”
And now, we have more friends, more love in our lives, and Sunshine Cathedral is touching more people.

Cathy Tullo told people, “We’re drinking for Jesus!” And whether wine or water, beer or root beer, that was true. We were doing what Jesus did…having a party and inviting people to it.

And as we do that, we are all enriched. New ideas, new gifts, new friendships, new sharing, new connections, new experiences…we are re-newed as we form community and welcome more and more people into it. “Peter and Andrew, follow me! James and John, join us! Let’s share hope, love, and joy together and with as many other people as possible.”

Fishing for people isn’t about making people embrace certain prejudices or opinions, it isn’t condemning people for who they love or how they pray or what they look like or where they live, it isn’t insisting that we all call God, Ultimate Reality, the Mystery of Life, the Web of Existence the same name…fishing for people is just about providing a joyful community that welcomes more and more and more people into it. People will leave their broken nets behind to be part of that kind loving, joyful community, and they will find at least some healing in their deepest places as a result.

We all have broken nets…but we can leave some of those old damaged nets behind and enter into the joy of
comm-unity, unity with the God of our understanding and with more and more of God’s children.
And this is the good news. Amen.

© Durrell Watkins 2017

We find God in one another.
We serve God by loving one another.
We worship God by coming together.
And there is always room for more.
Amen.

Standing for Justice in the Name of Love

On January 15, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Standing for Justice in the Name of Love Rev Dr Durrell Watkins Jan. 15, 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. “We need to pledge ourselves anew to the cause of Christ. We must capture the spirit of the early church. Wherever the early Christians went, they made a triumphant witness for Christ. Whether on the village […]

Standing for Justice in the Name of Love
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Jan. 15, 2017

Martin Luther King, Jr.
“We need to pledge ourselves anew to the cause of Christ. We must capture the spirit of the early church. Wherever the early Christians went, they made a triumphant witness for Christ. Whether on the village streets or in the city jails, they daringly proclaimed the good news of the gospel.”

John 1.33 (the one on whom you see the spirit is the one who will baptize with the spirit)

Luke 4.18-19
Jesus quoting the prophet Isaiah and claiming the affirmation as his own said,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because I have been anointed to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

As followers of Jesus, the spirit of the Lord, the power of God, the breath of life, the energy of the universe is upon us.
We are anointed, that is, appointed to get to work and make a difference.

We are anointed to:
Care for the poor .
Care for political prisoners and refugees.
Help people see where things need to be improved, and see that there is hope that can sustain us all.
Help the oppressed work for liberation.
And do it all year long, year after year.

In the famous hate mail I get, there are two demands I have received repeatedly over the years (less and less overtime, thank God).

One – stop asking for financial support.
Not bloody likely. I gladly ask you to support the work of building the church of Jesus Christ. You are free to say no, but you will have no luck in getting me to stop asking everyone to support this sacred work. I don’t promise you’ll be rich if you tithe or that you’ll be damned if you don’t – both statements are lies. But I believe in our mission with all my heart, and those who believe in it with me, will want to support it. And, supporting something you believe in does feel good and it helps others.

The other demand I get is: Don’t talk about politics; I come to church hear about Jesus.
It is impossible to faithfully talk about Jesus without also dealing with politics.

Some complain that our liberating message is political, and others complain that it’s too soft, too warm and fuzzy…funny how the same message strikes people so differently…I guess if you need to be challenged, you hear challenge, and if you need healing, you hear a message of hope…that’s how God tends to work.

But when people accuse us of being too cuddly, they mean they don’t have much empathy for those who are hurting; and when people accuse of us being political, they usually mean they don’t want their faith to move them to do justice work, even though the prophet Micah said all that God wants from us is to DO JUSTICE, LOVE MERCY, AND DEMONSTRATE SOME HUMILITY.

To care for the poor, the oppressed, to do justice and love mercy…that means that when those in power target people by race or religion or gender identity or sexual orientation or class or ability it would be a betrayal of the gospel to not give voice to the offense and call for repentance and healing.

When Jesus told a story about a GOOD Samaritan…that was political (those dirty, conniving, blasphemous Samaritans…don’t you dare suggest that they can be kind or moral…but Jesus did). Affirming the sacred value of the Samaritans was justice work, some may have called it political.

When Jesus fed hungry crowds, or allowed his disciples to gather food on the Sabbath because they were hungry…that was political. Doing whatever he could to ease suffering sounds like compassion, but when others try to stop you and you do it anyway, it becomes political.

When Jesus didn’t resist arrest in the garden…that was political…as political as when the dogs were unleashed on John Lewis for his nonviolent work for racial justice. Refusing to be violent in your struggle against violence is justice work (or as Dr. King called it, Soul Force).

If our politics or our religion doesn’t lead us to care for those in need, we aren’t doing them right.

Politics comes from a Greek work that means human community; and church comes from a Greek word that means human assembly. Religion is political; politics is spiritual…because they are both about human relationships and working for the highest good. And working for what is good is the call of the gospel. I’m not talking about petty partisan tug of wars – I’m talking about people getting together and working together to help all people experience the best in life.

To be followers of the Galilean prophet whose faith and love caused him to stand up for the least of these, isn’t just to praise him, but to emulate him as best we can – oh, we’ll fail, but nevertheless we must try.

We are going to stand up and speak up and at times act up… for the sake of the kin-dom of God, that anti-empire, that blessed community where Justice Reigns and Love patrols and Hope legislates and where all are welcome and affirmed.

In the kin-dom of God, divine power isn’t power over, but power with. It’s not beating down, it’s lifting up. It’s not crucifixion, it’s resurrection.

That’s what it looks like when the spirit of the Lord is upon us; that’s what it looks like to baptize with spirit, to splash the world with the power of God; that’s what it looks like to follow Jesus; it looks like caring for the poor, the powerless, the marginalized, the outcast, the forgotten, the demoralized, the wounded.

In 1957 at the Dexter Ave Baptist church, Dr. King preached:
“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

In our year of evangelism, we must “daringly” implement the demands of justice, and do our best to correct everything that stands against love. Or we could say, we are called to stand for justice in the name of love.

And this is the good news. Amen.

© Durrell Watkins 2017

The spirit of the Lord is upon me!
God give me hope for my life and hope to share.
I am blessed to bless others.
Alleluia!
Amen.

All Wet or On Fire?

On January 8, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

All Wet or On Fire? Baptism of the Lord Sunday (2017) Rev Dr Durrell Watkins In today’s gospel lesson Jesus comes to John to be baptized. Water rituals were very common in those days. Water represents newness, like a birth that follows someone’s water breaking. Rituals that involve walking through water symbolize a journey, going […]

All Wet or On Fire?
Baptism of the Lord Sunday (2017)
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins

In today’s gospel lesson Jesus comes to John to be baptized. Water rituals were very common in those days. Water represents newness, like a birth that follows someone’s water breaking.

Rituals that involve walking through water symbolize a journey, going through a challenge and coming out okay, like Moses’ people crossing a sea to safety. Sprinkling water often is a sign of blessing. Pouring water can symbolize the outpouring of God’s love and power. Mixing water with wine or making tea from water and sharing the liquid at a symbolic meal is also a common ritual use of water. Water rituals are meant to help us connect with a power within us. In fact, all sacraments are outward signs of inward grace, outward expressions of internal events.

Water rituals are ubiquitous and are from time immemorial. So, that washing people was part of John’s ministry is not terribly surprising. He wasn’t the only one doing it nor was he the first. He certainly wasn’t the last.

That Jesus would want to begin his ministry by participating in a water ritual also makes sense. But here’s the twist: Before verses 13-17 which we heard read from Matthew chapter 3 today, John the baptizer says in verses 11-12,
“I baptize with water; but after me comes one who is very powerful…who will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing hook is in his hand…and he will gather wheat into the barn and burn away the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Then Jesus shows up, he gets splashed, and he begins a ministry that set his part of the world on fire.

The fire isn’t a threat – Jesus isn’t a pyromaniac for heaven’s sake! The fire is an idiom, a figure of speech. He wants to immerse people in hope, in compassion, in a zest for making a difference in the world. He wants to get people fired up for justice, for healing, for building people up, for forming communities of care and concern and celebration.

Jesus wants people immersed, splashed, hosed down with a new attitude, with a new way of thinking…he wants people swimming in the notion that the last can be first and the first will be last because in God’s kin-dom there is no first and last. He wants hungry people fed and sick people tended and political prisoners encouraged and refugees welcomed and vulnerable people protected.

Jesus wants to resist empire with love. He wants to conquer fear with hope. He wants people to know that they and all other people have sacred value. And he’s on fire to immerse people in this message and he wants his disciples and admirers and friends to be on fire to live and share this message, too.

When people are on fire with a desire to love our neighbors and care for those in need and work for justice for all people, then all the useless crap that passes as religion and politics and values will burn up like the garbage they are and what will be left is the nourishing, spiritual wheat that we have stored in angelic barns…the nourishment of self-esteem, of generosity, of concern for the so-called least of these, the bread of justice, the grain of hope, the flour of goodwill…that’s what’s left and that’s what we have to share when we are on fire the way Jesus wanted people to be.

Thinking of Jesus’ baptism of fire reminds me of that great old hymn of the faith:
“You know that it would be untrue, you know that I would be liar if I was to say to you, ‘Girl, we couldn’t get much higher.’ Come on baby, light my fire…Try to set the night on fire.”

Setting the world on fire with hope and a commitment to do justice, love mercy, and live humbly…that’s the baptism we are called to share today.

At Sunshine Cathedral, we offer the water ritual known as baptism but we don’t require it. We define baptism as being immersed in the life of our spiritual community and you can choose to celebrate that or not with some water…but if you are immersed in the life of this church you will be on fire for justice, on fire for to bring hope and healing to hurting people, on fire to pull down the strongholds of racism, on fire to affirm and celebrate the LGBT community, on fire to share the message that we are each God’s miracle and not God’s mistake. John’s watery baptism was fine, but the power is in the fire!

The theme of being on fire to heal wounded souls, to build justice seeking communities, to affirm the dignity of every human being is actually how Matthew’s gospel ends.

The last two verses of Matthew’s gospel bring us back to baptism, but those concluding verses don’t mention water. Matthew 28.19-20 reads, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Parent and of the Son and of the holy Spirit, and teaching them…everything I have taught you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Let me rephrase that for us today, in light of the Jesus who baptized not with water but with fire:
“Reach out to as many people as possible, immersing them in God, in Christ, and in the holy Spirit, which is to say, Immerse them in Life, in Love, and in Liberation;
[and how do we do that?] by teaching them about this Jesus who was on fire to give broken people their dignity back, and to create a world where love reigns supreme – and as we do that the fire of Jesus will be our own, for as long as we shall live.”

Early in Matthew, Jesus kicks his ministry off with John’s water ritual, but John tells us – Jesus isn’t going to get us wet, he’s going to light a fire under us and Jesus’ fire cannot be extinguished. Jesus then goes on and starts lighting those fires, and Matthew concludes the gospel by challenging us to be keepers of the flame, and can’t nobody flame like Jesus, except, possibly, us. And this is the good news! Amen.

© Durrell Watkins 2017

Dear God,
Let the fire of joy burn within us;
Let the fire of hope guide us;
Let the fire of love radiate from us;
In Jesus’ name.
Amen.

A Year of Evangelism

On January 1, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

A Year of Evangelism Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins January 1, 2017 Evangelism is the zealous advocacy of a cause. The advocacy requires the heartfelt proclamation of the cause, often with the intent of helping people have a conversion experience. The conversion that evangelism is meant facilitate is a conversion of the heart. If one is […]

A Year of Evangelism
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
January 1, 2017

Evangelism is the zealous advocacy of a cause. The advocacy requires the heartfelt proclamation of the cause, often with the intent of helping people have a conversion experience.

The conversion that evangelism is meant facilitate is a conversion of the heart.

If one is chronically fearful, the conversion would be to rise above those fears and learn to live in hope and joy.

If one is suffering from addiction, the conversion is the dawning realization that freedom from the controlling substance or behavior is possible.

If one is burdened with needless guilt and shame, the conversion is daring to affirm with conviction, “I am God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.”

If one is perpetually lonely, the conversion might be to realize that God is Love and the Love that God is will never let us go.

Now, when conversion happens, one may wish to affiliate with the group or school of thought that brought the healing message, but the conversion isn’t joining the group; the conversion is the change of attitude, the change of heart, the change in perspective, the change in how one approaches life.

When Malinda Cramer, after suffering with chronic illness for 25 years, prayed, “Is there a power in the vast universe that can heal me?” and she experienced a profound realization of the omnipresence of God – that was a conversion moment.

Conversion could better be described as a spiritual transformation.

Conversions aren’t a one a done deal. If I get one habit under control, but still suffer from low self esteem, then I’m due for another conversion, a continued transformation.

If i realize that I am vastly lovable but still struggle with fear of scarcity, then I’m due for another conversion, a continued transformation.

We can have several conversion experiences in life…whatever needs enlightenment in our lives, whatever needs healing, whatever needs lifting up…to have a miraculous change of perception in that area and to begin to live with new freedom and joy is a conversion, a spiritual transformation.

Have you had a spiritual transformation, or a dozen? Have you had a breakthrough, a change of heard that resulted in more hope or peace or joy to your life?

Saul of Tarsus, the tradition says, had an ugly, irrational vendetta against the Jesus movement. He was healed of his hatred, He encountered a healing light and experienced the ever-living Christ and his life was changed. He no longer wanted to oppress the Christian minority; he wanted to help them grow and thrive. He joined their ranks, but his conversion of the heart came first.

Have you had something that was hurtful, weighing you down, holding you back that was somehow transformed in your consciousness? Did you get a new way of seeing it, a new way of approaching it, a new way of dealing with it and find yourself better than you were before? That’s conversion, spiritual transformation.

If you were ashamed of your sexual orientation, and now you think that who you are is a gift from God – that’s a conversion, a spiritual transformation (praise God!).

If you have dragged around pain from an event in your distant past and you finally decided that the pain of the past would not dictate your future – that’s a conversion, a spiritual transformation, and a healing miracle to boot (praise God!).

Our readings today tell us that God loves us and wants us to thrive.
The psalmist said that God made us with a divine spark within us.

The evangelist Matthew tells us about Joseph going to great lengths to accept a wife who had a baby not his, and who did everything possible to keep his wife and her child safe. That is a demonstration of love. That is God’s love being carried out in and through human lives.

Matthew goes on to show us that Jesus said, “If you show care, concern, or compassion to anyone in need, that is the best way to follow me.” Not to argue about Jesus’ metaphysical nature, but to do what Jesus would do – show concern for those in need, as Joseph is said to have done when Mary and Jesus were in need. That’s how we can be Christ in the world, bringing hope and healing to those in need.

I want 2017 to be a year of evangelism for Sunshine Cathedral. I want us to be more passionate than ever about sharing hope. I want us to do more and with more zeal and joy to reach more people with healing grace. That may mean that we attract some new people to help us spread the message, but the true evangelism is when we passionately do all that we can to tell every hurting or fearful person – YOU ARE GOD’S MIRACLE, NOT GOD’S MISTAKE! I want us to share a message that will transform hearts. Of course, we always have, but it’s time to kick it up a notch.

We’ll do that with capital campaigns, with literature, with sermons and worship services, with concerts and the internet, with social events and trips, with classes and retreats, with social commentary and acts of compassion. It will take a lot of our time, It will take effort and talent, It will take money and hope and commitment and courage.

But we are passionate about sharing this message, this affirmation of the sacred value of all people, this declaration of God’s all-inclusive and unconditional love. We want to convert hurting, fearful hearts, helping them be transformed into liberated, healed, joyful hearts. And, we, too might need a conversion or two, some continued transformation…we might have to become more open to even more diversity, more willing to take more risks for the sake of the gospel, more willing to be challenged even when we don’t feel we can meet the challenges. But if this is a year of evangelism, our passion will increase, our dedication will increase, our effectiveness will increase, and we will touch and bless more lives than ever before.

Are you willing and ready? (Yes…)

Then 2017 is the year of evangelism for Sunshine Cathedral, and this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2017

Dear God,
Heal the fears, regrets, and pain in my heart.
And use me to help bring healing to others.
Fill me with joy and a zeal for sharing joy.
Alleluia!
Amen.

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