Stay Strong

On March 18, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Stay Strong Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins 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. In the gospel story today, we see Jesus suffering. It is disturbing to view the word picture […]

Stay Strong
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

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.

In the gospel story today, we see Jesus suffering.
It is disturbing to view the word picture painted in the story…Jesus beaten and humiliated. I don’t believe the cruelty he suffered was divinely ordained, and apparently he didn’t either. He said the one who turned him in was wrong to do so…if it had been God’s plan for Jesus to be tortured, then why would the person who facilitated it be wrong for doing so? No, Jesus’ torture was the result of human cruelty. I cringe when the story shows people who didn’t even know him shouting for him to be tortured to death…CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM!

That level of hate and violence isn’t a divine plan…it is human pathology and we still see it. We are still calling for the torment, the exclusion, the humiliation, the dehumanization of LGBTQ people, of non-white immigrants, of refugees, of the poor…Crowds are still shouting, “Hurt them…Get rid of them…Shame them…Deny them their rights…” The demands that the “other” be crucified are still loud and frequent. God forgive us when we are doing the shouting, and forgive us for remaining silent while others are doing the shouting.

But while I can’t solve the problem of hatred that infects human hearts, I can notice Jesus staying strong in the worst hours of his life.

When they placed the crown of thorns on his head, to both humiliate and hurt him, I wonder if Jesus thought of another thorny time. I wonder if in a flash of imagination he recalled the Moses story.

Moses came across some brambles, some thorny, prickly branches in the desert. He saw a thorny bush on fire and it kept burning. The fire didn’t destroy the bush, it just kept burning. Sometimes problems are chronic, they just seem to go and on, but they need not destroy us.
As Moses encountered that burning bush, he also encountered God. God was in the flames. God was in the prickly bush. God was in the desert. God was present in the uncomfortable situation. God didn’t put the flames out, but God spoke through the flames. God was in the midst of the thorny, fiery situation. Where is God when everything is terrible…right there with us, in the brambles, in the fire, in the pain…offering encouragement and lending us strength.

From that burning thorn bush, God tells Moses to stand up the empire. Confront Pharaoh. And Moses says, “On whose authority? Who am I to wag my finger in the emperor’s face?” And God tells Moses, “I am…tell them I am is sending you.” I Am is a name for God. That’s awesome.

From a hot mess in the desert, a thorny encounter, Moses discovers the authority to work for justice, and the authority is I Am.
I Am the one to make a difference.
I Am the one to speak truth to power.
I Am the one to say, “Let my people go!”
I Am who God can use to bring hope and healing to the world.

And today, in the gospel, Jesus is face to face with tyranny, challenging empire, facing cruelty, and somehow knowing,
I Am able to face this…
I Am the one who can look Pilate in his eye and not back down…
I Am the one who will not let the hatred being spewed at me make me doubt myself…
I Am not alone, and
I Am able to go to peace instead of to pieces.

Whether a crown of thorns or a burning thorn bush, in thorny times we draw strength by using the power of I Am intentionally and positively. Be still and know that I AM divine.

I Am is one of the names for God.
I Am is the authority by which we are to work for justice, compassion, and healing in the world.

How are we using our I Am?
What are we pulling into our I-Amness?

Never say I am unworthy or I am not enough or I am so stupid or I am sick and tired of whoever or whatever….I am is a divine name, never use it in vain by following it with something demeaning.

Always follow the divine name with something beautiful and praiseworthy:
I am strong.
I am hopeful.
I am wise and wonderful.
I am loveable and loving.
I am who I am meant to be.
I am able to overcome obstacles.
I am willing to find blessings in the midst of difficulty.
I am weathering this storm and I am going to be alright.
I am God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.

Here is one of my favorite I am prayers:
“Day by day in every way I am getting better and better.”

And here’s another one:
“I am centered and poised in the Christ Mind and nothing can disturb the calm peace of my soul.”

Moses had his wilderness years. Jesus had his betrayal, his pain, his horrible injustice, and we have faced cruelty, injustice, difficulties, storms, illnesses, betrayals, abandonment, financial hardships, or other challenges…but like Moses and Jesus, we can learn that I Am is the power that helps us face the challenges, salvage blessings from them, and become beacons of light in our world.

We can’t always control circumstances, but we can decide how we will respond to circumstances, and one way to respond is to know that regardless of the situation,
I am a child of God,
I am God’s miracle and not God’s mistake,
I am centered and poised in the Christ mind and nothing can disturb the calm peace of my soul.

We will encounter thorns in life, but those are just experiences…they can’t touch the I Am of our being. Always use your I AM in positive ways. That’s how we can always stay strong. And this is the good news. Amen.

I am centered and poised in the Christ Mind…
And nothing can disturb the calm peace of my soul.
Amen.

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