Turn It Around

On December 10, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Turn It Around Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Advent 2, 2017 (Peace) Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken may only God’s word be heard. Amen. Coming out (in the 1980s) was a big change for me. It […]

Turn It Around
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Advent 2, 2017 (Peace)

Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

Coming out (in the 1980s) was a big change for me. It didn’t change who I was, but it changed how I felt about myself, and changing how I felt about myself changed how I experienced life. Because of what I had been taught by well meaning but woefully misinformed people, I grew up believing that same-gender love and attraction were bad…and yet, I knew at the age of 4 who I was. But I was told that was wrong. So, I spent years trying to confess away, pray away, and in high school, even date away the gay. It didn’t work.

But what did work was my changing the narrative. I learned what social and behaviorial science had to say about same gender affection and attraction. I met LGBTQ people and saw first hand how generous and courageous and amazingly fabulous they were. I learned that theologians and bible scholars were way ahead of most pulpit preachers on this issue. I learned that there was even an entire academic field known as Queer Theology! But more importantly, I asked God to fix me, to heal me, take the gay away, and God’s response in the depths of my spirit was crystal clear: Not even God can heal what is not sick.

That was a new and lifesaving narrative for me. It turned my whole life around. And for 30 years now I have been thanking God for what and who I am.

We all have had a moment when we felt stuck because of fear or regret or self-doubt or shame…and I’m here to tell you that you can change your self talk and turn away from the stuck feeling and turn toward hope, peace, and joy.

I used to think God was scary and out to get us. I turned that nonsense around. I now know that God is love…
not God is love BUT…
God is love PERIOD.

I’ve still got some stuff to turn around. If I’m not careful, I’ll scare myself by focusing too much on what is wrong in the world and on what could get worse. Sometimes I think Compassion has come become a D list value, and empathy seems almost like an ancient myth. And if I focus on that without giving myself a counter narrative, I can get anxious and depressed. But if i want to be resilient in these uncertain times, and that means I’m going to have turn some things around in my thinking.

I’m going to have to believe that the human family is still evolving, and while we may now and again take a few steps back, we will get moving forward again.

I’m going to have to tell myself that while a lot of people are hurting right now, healing is possible.

I’m going to have to tell myself that when a deluge of woes is flooding our world, when anxieties seem to be diluvial, then I need to build an ark of peace that will shelter at least some from the storm.
To turn around our attitudes is to lay claim on inner peace.

There is a story in the bible about Jesus and his disciples being on a boat. Jesus takes a nap, but while he’s sleeping a storm pops up. The disciples become huge drama queens. They wake up Jesus saying, “Teacher, how can you sleep? Don’t you care that we’re going to die out here?” Jesus gave a stretch and a yawn, and then said, “Peace. Be still.” In the story, he was quieting the storm, but I think really he was quieting his panicking friends. They were scaring themselves and weren’t able to find peace in terror, but Jesus had peace, he had cultivated peace through prayer and worship and study and meditation…and so when the crisis came, he had peace to share. He could offer peace because he had trained himself to go to peace instead of to pieces.

In today’s gospel reading, John is preaching a baptism of repentance. Repentance is turning around, turning from one thing and toward another. Repentance is a religious word for turning one’s attitude and habits around.

And the passage ends with some very good news. John says, “I have baptized you with water, but someone is coming who will baptize you with the holy Spirit.”

In other words, John is saying, “I’ve been telling you to turn things around in your life, in your mind. But there is one who will immerse you in power, in wholeness, in an awareness of God’s presence. I’ve been telling you to turn it around, but he’s going to show you that you actually have the power to do it.“ We are immersed in the power to change our thinking, and thereby change how we experience the world. It is realizing that we are immersed in spirit, in the omnipresence of God, that gives us peace and empowerment and indomitable hope.

Once we realize that we have the power to turn our thinking around, then we go to peace instead of to pieces, and that may be the miracle most needed in the world today…people who have peace that the world cannot give and that the world cannot take away. Peace is possible. And this is the good news. Amen.

Dear God,
Replace my fear with faith,
My weariness with resilience,
And my pain with peace.
And what I wish for myself, I wish for all people.
Amen.

Waiting With Hope

On December 4, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Waiting With Hope Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Advent 1, 2017 Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken may only God’s word be heard. Amen. Great old Hymn of faith: “When I was just a little girl I […]

Waiting With Hope
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Advent 1, 2017

Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

Great old Hymn of faith: “When I was just a little girl I asked my mother what will I be…will I be pretty, will I be rich? Here’s what she said to me – Que sera sera, whatever will be will be; the future’s not ours to see, Que sera sera.”

No one really knows what the future holds. Trends can show us what is likely to happen, and we’ve all made lucky guesses now and then. But, mostly, the future is always unfolding and is not predetermined.

Jesus says in today’s gospel that situations change. What seemed permanent can pass away. But he also says that his words will last. Words of hope seem to linger – or at least the hope itself lingers. The gospel, the good news, is a message of hope.

Advent is a time for waiting – waiting for xmas, certainly. Some see it as a time of waiting for the return of Jesus. But Jesus said he would always be with us (Lo, I am with you always). How does one return if one never left?

Jesus is with us in our stories, in our rituals, in our imaginations. We give body to his memory as the Church, the body of Christ. And, the light that people saw in Jesus is also in us. So, for Christians, Christ is always present.

I’m not waiting for Jesus – I’m waiting for christianity to re-embrace Jesus. Not as an idol, not a golden calf (we’ve gotten that down all too well). I’m waiting for christians en masse to re-embrace Jesus’ values, his compassion, his desire for justice, his desire for all people to be fed, for all who are ill to be healed, for all who are lonely to be loved, for all who are afraid to be encouraged, for all who hurt to be comforted.

A religion about Jesus doesn’t honor Jesus, rather it tends to distort his powerful message.
We don’t need a religion about Jesus, we need the religion OF Jesus…which is a living and world engaged spirituality that works and waits for the kin-dom of God to be made manifest…that’s what we so desperately need.

When the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news he proclaimed about God’s kin-dom where the first are last and the last are first,
where the so-called least of these are remembered and blessed,
where hunger is not acceptable,
where untreated illness is unthinkable,
where refugees are seen as God’s children in need of welcome and concern…when that Gospel is remembered and reclaimed and put into action, then the Christ Nature will have returned and will dwell among us and within us. For that, I am still waiting.

I’m tired of discrimination being uplifted as a virtue.
I’m tired of refugees fleeing war and famine only to be rejected when they arrive at new shores.
I’m tired of needing to remind people that women are in charge of women’s bodies.
I’m tired of the poor and the sick and the elderly being abandoned.
And I’m damned angry when these atrocities are committed in the name of Jesus.

So I am waiting not for Jesus to start getting his mail here on planet earth…I’m waiting for those who claim to be his church to care about all the children of God.

Theologian G.K. Chesterton once remarked, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it’s been found difficult and left untried.”

It’s so much easier to sing, “O how I love Jesus” than it is to fight for the dignity of senior citizens, to affirm the sacred value of LGBTQ people, to work for peace, and to demand that our national and global resources be used to stamp out hunger and disease. It’s easy to love Jesus, it’s harder to love ourselves and our neighbors. And so we have settled for venerating Jesus rather than following him. Jesus didn’t say, “If you love me blow smoke up my skirt.” He said, “If you love me feed my sheep.”

The world waits for us to follow Jesus’ example of feeding, healing, and welcoming those in need.

But we dare not give up hope. Hope is what sustains us while we wait. Hope is how we handle an unknown future. Hope doesn’t always grant our wishes, but it keeps us going in the difficult times…and sometimes, our wishes do finally come true.

The prophet Habakkuk wrote, “There is a vision…if it seems to tarry, wait for it, it will surely come…”
Religion may have fallen asleep at the switch.
Democracy may have gotten a bit lazy.
Injustice and tyranny may seem to get the upper hand now and then, but there is a vision of God’s kin-dom, and if it continues to tarry we will insist that it is on its way and we will do what we can to make room for it.

We may not know how or when Christ’s vision for God’s kin-dom will come to pass but if we won’t give up, we can know that something good is on the way. It may take work, it may take time, but “there is good for us and we ought to have it.“
”All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
”Weeping may endure for a night but show comes in the morning.“
”We will be repaid for the years the locusts have eaten.”
A temporarily homeless, unwed mother can give birth in a stable and her family can become refugees in Egypt and her baby can still grow up to change lives for 2 millennia and counting.

Don’t give up. Don’t give up the vision. Don’t give up the hope that makes not giving up possible. Something good is on the way…somehow, some day…and so we wait with hope. This is the good news. Amen.

I am hopeful.
Hope may not be a guarantee…
But it sustains me in uncertain times.
When blessings are delayed, I will wait with hope.
Amen.

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