The Most Wonderful Night of the Year – Christmas Eve 7pm & 9pm

On December 27, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

The Most Wonderful Night of the Year Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Xmas Eve 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. Some ideals are so noble, so inspiring, so uplifting, […]

The Most Wonderful Night of the Year
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Xmas Eve

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.

Some ideals are so noble, so inspiring, so uplifting, that as much as we admire and appreciate them, we tend to fall short of them. But when they are that good, we don’t give up the dream. We may fail to let the dream become a reality, but the dream itself is just too good to let go.

Take me for instance. I never give up on a beautiful dream. That’s why I’m in the 10th year of a 30 day diet plan.
I struggle with both my weight and my attitude about my weight…but even though I haven’t maintained my ideal form nor healed all of my body shame, I have not retired the idea of better fitness. Maybe one day I’ll reach my goal, or decide I’m the bee’s knees as I am, but even if I don’t, the dream itself is worthwhile.

Christmas represents the beautiful ideal that we all share but that collectively we have not yet made manifest. But every year, every Christmas Eve, we gather again to remember and rehearse the ideal…we keep the dream alive so that one day, we may actually live it.

So once again we return to the Nativity story. The story begins with Mary having her unplanned baby in a barn when she is traveling away from home. She swaddles her newborn and places him in a feeding trough.

At first blush…gross.
But isn’t that what love does? It takes what is available and transforms it. Love faces the fears and disappointments and gives miracles another chance.

Mary doesn’t have a crib, a playpen, or a bassinet. She has a manger. So, she has Joseph clean it up and she creates a makeshift bed for her baby. Love transforms what is available, turning the mundane into a safe place of comfort and rest.

When I was 5 and my brother was just born, some of my family members (including my infant brother and myself) were in a car accident. Everyone was injured except my brother. So, my great Aunt Viola came to the hospital to pick up the baby while the rest of us were admitted for treatment. Aunt Viola (we actually called her Aunt Ola) didn’t have baby things. So she found a box and transferred it into a little crib. That’s what love does. It transforms. A box, some blankets, and a caring great aunt was the formula for a safe and comfortable bed for a newborn temporarily separated from his family.

The Nativity story starts with people being denied a place of comfort, but transforming the humblest of surrounding into a delivery room, recovery room, and nursery. But it also shows other outcasts, shepherds who worked and lived outside in the fields with smelly sheep, being the unlikely ones to receive angel visitations and pronouncements of joy…showing that all people have sacred value.

And in case we missed that all people should have hope, peace, love, and joy in their lives, that all people have dignity and worth, the angels actually spell it out. They declare unambiguously that God’s will is for there to be peace and goodwill for all people.
We sing it. We celebrate it. We get all warm and fuzzy about the angel chorus: peace on the earth goodwill to all…

Maybe this is the xmas when those words will stay with us beyond the holiday and we will no longer rush to war.

Maybe this is the Xmas that those words fill our hearts causing our love and concern for people to extend to immigrants and refugees.

Maybe this is the Xmas that peace and goodwill to all helps us care for people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Maybe this is the xmas when we decide that peace and goodwill should be extended to the disadvantaged and marginalized, no matter who or where they are.

Maybe this is the xmas where thoughts of peace and goodwill offer a corrective to racism and xenophobia.

Maybe this is the xmas that peace and goodwill lead us to affirm that all people without exception are all the children of the loving goodness that we religious types call God.

Maybe this xmas we remember that the baby we celebrate grows up to say, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Peace on earth, goodwill to all…Dear God let this be the Xmas when we decide that ALL MEANS ALL.

Every year on Xmas Eve we gather to keep the dream alive. One day, may it be soon, the dream will become reality. Until that glorious day, the night we gather to dream the dream remains the most wonderful night of the year. And this is the good news. Amen.

Dear God,
Give us a Christmas miracle.
Let something good be born in our lives tonight.
Fill our hearts with hope, peace, joy, and love.
Amen.

Miracles of Love – Christmas Eve 10:30am

On December 27, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Miracles of Love Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Advent 4, 10:30 am 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. Luke 1.28: “Upon entering, the Archangel Gabriel said, ‘Hail Mary full […]

Miracles of Love
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Advent 4, 10:30 am

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.

Luke 1.28: “Upon entering, the Archangel Gabriel said, ‘Hail Mary full of grace; God is with you!”
The angels adds, “You have nothing to fear.”

And then the angel message continues: “You will give birth and you will call your child Yeshu.”

Wait. The name is Jesus. Well, it evolved into Jesus. Jesus is an anglicized version of a Latin rendering of a Greek translation of an Aramaic word.

So, Jesus isn’t a word Jesus would have ever heard or recognized. Jesus is how we know Jesus…it’s not how his mom knew him. So, when we say or pray or do things “in Jesus’ name” we are invoking his nature, his memory, his principles, his example…not his actual name, which in any language should not be used like a magic word to grant wishes. Still, he’s our friend and we can use our nick name for him: Jesus. Now, back to the story.

God is omnipresent love, and God communicates to Mary today through an angel, a messenger. So, Mary is hearing from, is experiencing directly, the power of love.

Love says to her: There is grace equal to your need.
Love says to her: God is with you.
Love says to her: Do not be afraid.
And Love says to her: Name your blessing.

Call the child Yeshu, Yeshua, Iesus, Jesus.

Your child will be a liberator, a healer, he will show people how can they be saved from hopelessness, despair, and segregation. Yeshu, Jesus, means savior. He’ll live up to the name.

Give him an encouraging name.
Give him a promising name.
Believe that good can come from this.
Don’t get stuck in the troubling beginnings, look ahead to what is possible and name it, claim it, invite it, expect it, allow it.
Call your challenge an opportunity.
Name your blessing.

Right now other people may be calling you and your future child other names, don’t buy what they’re selling.
You own your dreams, you name your possibilities, you claim your blessings. “There is good for me and I ought to have it.”

Your pregnancy hasn’t occurred the way or at the time you would have preferred – but your child will be great.

You may be feeling broken, fractured, fragmented right now – but the spirit of wholeness, of abundant life, of indomitable hope, of creativity will come upon you. You’ve got this.

These may not seem like ideal circumstances – but the power of God hovers over you.

The angel, in a nutshell, is telling Mary that she and her future child are God’s miracles, not God’s mistakes.

A Course in Miracles teaches us that a miracle is a change in perception from fear to love. Mary learns today that God is omnipresent Love, a loving presence and power that will always be with her. She can turn from her fears and toward the power of divine Love. She can even use the power of love to name and claim possibilities in life, a future full of hope.

In our own lives, in our own world, in our own time…there is anxiety, pain, uncertainty…but we have the power to believe in ourselves, to believe that God believes in us, and to affirm glorious possibilities. Those are the miracles offered in our story today. They are miracles of love, and this is the good news. Amen.

I give thanks for divine Love.
It gives me the power to overcome fear.
It gives me the power to name and claim my good.
Alleluia!
Amen.

A Miracle for Mary – Christmas 9am

On December 27, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

A Miracle for Mary Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Lessons & Carols (Advent 4, 9 am) +May God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. Luke 1.28: “Upon entering, the Archangel Gabriel said, ‘Hail Mary full of grace; God is with you!” The angel hits the ground running. Right off, the angel offers […]

A Miracle for Mary
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Lessons & Carols (Advent 4, 9 am)

+May God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

Luke 1.28: “Upon entering, the Archangel Gabriel said, ‘Hail Mary full of grace; God is with you!”

The angel hits the ground running. Right off, the angel offers affirmation.

Mary is pregnant. She didn’t plan to be. But here she is. And now an angel shows up, which could be a little overwhelming. But this peasant girl in an occupied territory who is unexpectedly pregnant gets a word from God: There is grace in the midst of all this drama and uncertainty. Hail Mary – FULL OF GRACE.

Now, what is grace, exactly? It’s unmerited favor. It’s a gift. It’s just there. We can’t earn it. We can’t lose it. God gives is freely and abundantly. It’s a free gift of unmeasurable love. Ten minutes ago Mary thought her world might be coming to an end. Now she hears from an angle that she is just chock full of grace.

How can she be sure that she has access to all this groovy grace? Because, as the angel clearly explains to her: God is with her.

That’s the comfort and the assurance that comes from our theology of omnipresence. There’s not a spot where God is not, so God must be here, with me, even when everything seems terrible. And if God is with me, God’s grace is available to me, and God’s grace is equal to every need.

Hail Mary full of grace, God is with you.

And then in verse 30 of Luke’s first chapter, the Archangel says to her, “You have nothing to fear.”

Life can be hard, even unfair. But we can take it. We can face it. We can rise above it. We can get through it. We can even find blessings along the way. We can face everything and rise; we can go to peace instead of to pieces. Because God is with us, and God’s grace is ours in abundance. Fear has no power over us…no more than we give it anyway.

A Course in Miracles teaches us that a miracle is change in perception from fear to love. Mary learns today that God is omnipresent Love, a loving presence and power that will always be with her. She can turn from her fears and toward the power of divine Love. That’s the miracle. Other exciting things will occur, even some very good things, but the primary miracle is one we can all share today: Hail Congregation, full of grace. You have no reason to fear, because God is love and God is with you.

And this is the good news. Amen.

Sing for Joy

On December 17, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Sing for Joy Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Advent 3, 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. I feel like singing today. Songs of Advent. First a song of hope […]

Sing for Joy
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Advent 3, 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.

I feel like singing today. Songs of Advent.
First a song of hope ~
Sinatra:
[Just what makes that little old ant
Think he can move that rubber tree plant Anyone knows an ant, can't Move a rubber tree plant But he's got high hopes, he's got high hopes Hes got high apple pie, in the sky hopes So any time your gettin low Stead of lettin go Just remember that ant Oops there goes another rubber tree plant]

Secondly a song of peace ~
(Natalie Sleeth):
[Go now in peace, go now in peace
May the love of God surround you everywhere, everywhere you may go.]

And of course a song of joy ~
[I’ve got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart Down in my heart Down in my heart I’ve got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart Down in my heart to stay.]

Song of Mary:
My spirit rejoices!
Then more affirmations that if believed would have to inspire joy:
God has done great things.
God cares about every generation.
God is with us who want fairness.
God cares about the poor and oppressed.

It’s a song of joy because it recongizes the spiritual truth that isn’t always evident in the realm of sense perception.
God is love, but the world seems hateful sometimes.
God cares for the downtrodden, but people who claim to worship God keep oppressing and marginalizing others.
God has given strength, comfort and consolation time and again, and yet so much more is still needed.

Mary isn’t living a life of ease and privilege, but for a moment she sees with the eyes of faith; she sees into the realm of spirit where all is whole and joyful; perfect and fair; abundant and good.

The Prophet Isaiah tells us to share joy in the first reading…God anoints prophetic leaders to offer hope, to believe in healing possibilities, to comfort the hurting, the speak for the voiceless, to care about the downtrodden…to help people find and celebrate and share joy.
But you can’t share what you don’t have. So, Mary offers hope, consolation and promise to the downtrodden, but first she claims those gifts for herself. She finds reason to rejoice, then she expresses her joy, and then she affirms that joy is possible for others.
My soul magnifes the Lord who loves me and who loves everyone else as well.

Mary tells us
To claim joy
To focus on what is joyful
And that God’s omnipresence is reason enough for joy.

We are part and parcel of God (Emerson)
There’s not a spot where God is not
We say it until we believe it, and when we believe it we have joy, and if we have joy we have it to share.

Anxiety threatens joy…Affirm joy anyway. Sing a song of joy, like Mary did. Acknowledge God’s loving presence and affirm that God’s gift of joy is yours to embrace.

Nehemiah: The joy of the Lord is your strength.
Psalmist: A joyful heart is good medicine…
The Buddha: When the mind is pure joy flows like a shadow that never leaves.

Joy is more than contentment, pleasure, whimsy or fun…all of which are good, but joy is something that can happen when nothing is going right, joy is something that pops up when it makes the least sense but you need it the most. Joy is healing, joy gives strength, joy can happen in spite of and in the midst of suffering.

Happiness is when you get your way, but with joy, even if everything is terrible, still my soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my liberator, my helper, my healer, my source of unlimited supply. God has done good things and God has not retired.

God weeps when our hearts break and God encourages us at our deepest places when we need it the most. I cannot be separated from God; I am forever held in the love that God is. To know that is to joy.

I worked with a woman once who when things would go badly would immediately say, “Praise the Lord anyway.” Nothing could get her down…at least nothing could keep her down. If the worst life could throw at you gets a “praise the Lord anyway”…you’ll always bounce back.

Mary had an unplanned pregnancy, her fiancée almost left her, the future was uncertain but she found joy by basically saying, “Praise the Lord anyway!” My soul doth magnify the lord and my spirit rejoices.
That’s joy…the joy that comes from knowing there’s not a spot where God is not…even in the mess, God is there, so praise the Lord anyway.

Mary’s song of joy shows us the power of songs of joy. And so, as is my way, I share with you for the 11th time this song of joy:

(Gayla Peavy):
[I want a hippopotamus for xmas
Only a hippopotamus will do
Don’t want a doll, no dinky tinker toy i want a hippopotamus to play with an enjoy I want a hippopotamus for xmas I don’t think Santa Claus will mind do you He won’t have to use the dirty chimney flu just bring it through the front door that’s the easy thing to do I can see me now on xmas morning creeping down the stairs Oh what joy and what surprise when i open up my eyes and see a hippo hero standing there.
I want a hippopotamus for xmas
Only a hippopotamus will do
No crocodiles or rhinoceroses, i only like hippopotamuses And Hippopatmuses like me too, and hippopotamuses like me too!]

This is the day to claim your joy! And this is the good news! Amen.

Dear God,
Fill our lives with joy.
We receive it with gratitude.
And so it is!

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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