God Can Help

On July 1, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

God Can Help Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins God Can Help Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Let us dwell together in peace; and let us not be instruments of our own or other people’s oppression. And now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. Our scripture reading today comes from the book […]

God Can Help
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

God Can Help
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

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

Our scripture reading today comes from the book of Lamentations.
We all know what lament means: it’s a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. And, that pretty fairly sums up the Book of Lamentations.

Each chapter of Lamentations is a hymn (a funeral dirge in fact) responding to the Fall of Jerusalem and the exile that followed.

The book of Lamentations declares the devastating sorrow the writer feels after the loss of Jerusalem, which wasn’t just a loss of control over real estate, but the loss of a vision, of values, of a dream where peace would reign, and abundance would bless every life, and compassion and justice would rule hearts and homeland, where generosity would outlast animosity and every wayfarer could be seen as a new friend. What happened to the city that could have been? And how will we ever reclaim the vision, the hope of what might be?

The truth is, sometimes loss is so overwhelming, disappointment is so heartbreaking, situations are so monumentally unfair, we can’t possibly move through the ache until we express it. Sometimes we need to swear, to punch a pillow, to break down with an ugly cry. And then, we can say, “God, help me get myself back together. Help me focus more on what is left than on what was lost. Help me see what I can do to rebuild. Help me see how things can get better.”

We can be positive and optimistic and ready for a miracle, once we’ve let ourselves acknowledge that our pain is real and our sorrow is profound.

We see that in Lamentations. Five chapters of moaning and wailing and “why, God, why???!!!” and even in the midst of all that, there is also, “God’s mercies are new every morning” and “I will hope in God.” My hope may be running low today, but I’ll get it back. I WILL hope in God again.
The life of faith is a long game.

There are seasons of ease and seasons of challenge. There are times when we are confident and times when we are burdened with doubt. Times of optimism, and times where we are almost hopeless.

But we will reclaim our hope. We will renew our strength. We will get our second wind. Deliverance is on the way, I promise it is, but I can’t tell you exactly when or how it will show up. But, even in the most troubling times, I do affirm that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.

In the book of Daniel, there is a story about King Nebuchadnezzar who made a huge, garish idol and decreed that all of his subjects must worship it. But there were three young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were faithful to their own spiritual path and they would not worship an idol of wealth or power. The huge, gold statue representing the king’s power, privilege, and wealth must have been impressive, but these young men had different values: kindness, courage, hope, peace, generosity, hospitality…their God represented peace and plenty, hope and healing for all people, not just a privileged few. They did not worship the king’s power or his wealth…they did not bow to his idol.

And so, they were sentenced to death. They were to be marched into an oven, a furnace, and burned alive. And they were thrown in the fire. But they survived, the story insists. And what’s more, witnesses said they saw a fourth figure in the fire.

The writer probably meant to suggest that a protective angel was there with them, but an angel in ancient literature symbolizes God’s presence. The young men went through the fire. I’m not sure I take that story literally, but I do take the point to heart. Sometimes we may feel like the world is on fire, but God is in the fire. There’s not a spot where God is not.

When the world is topsy turvey,
When chaos is everywhere,
When what we thought we could count on seems lost,

When peace is in peril,
and dignity is in danger ,
and compassion is crowded by cruelty,
and justice for all is perverted to all for just us,

That is when we are called to renew our hope,
To encourage one another,
To sing and pray,
To resist and rise up.

When a woman was about to be stoned by those who used religion like a weapon against people they didn’t like, Jesus stepped up. He said, “If you’ve never needed understanding, compassion, a second chance, if you’ve never once screwed up, then you be the first to throw a stone.” He saved her life, but also risked his own really. He was out numbered, but still he stood up, and he spoke up. Doesn’t following Jesus demand the same risks even still?

When voting rights are attacked, when the free press is attacked, when Muslims are targeted, when same-gender loving people are dehumanized and demonized, when Puerto Ricans are left in the dark for months on end, when people fight tooth and nail for fetuses but won’t lift a finger to protect brown and black children from being shot, tazed, caged, or ripped from their mothers’ arms, it is time for Jesus people to stand up, to speak up, and even to act up.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fought injustice. They didn’t use deadly weapons or mean spirited propaganda. Integrity, hope, courage, and resilience were their weapons. They fought but without hate and without violence. As St. Paul said, “the weapons of our warfare are not physical, but through God they are mighty to the pulling down of strongholds.” The three young men defeated greed, weaponized religion, and authoritarianism by simply not yielding to it. And they prevailed.

I can’t promise there will be no fires. Things seem to be heating up all the time.
I can’t promise that we will never lament; in fact, lamenting seems necessary some days.
But I can promise that no matter what we face we face it with God, and God can help.

God’s help may come in the form of our generosity, our resilience, our support of good causes, our encouragement of one another, our determination to resist injustice…But God’s help is at hand because there’s not a spot where God is not.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, divine mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.
God will help us rise up for justice-love.
God will help us speak up for the marginalized, the downtrodden, the victimized, the hurting and helpless.
God will help us feed the flock.
God will help us work for peace.
God will help us bind up the broken hearted,
God will help us deliver good news to the poor,
God will help us ask for release of political prisoners and asylum seekers,
God will help us welcome the stranger,
God will help us affirm the sacred value of all people!

God will help us stand up, and speak up, and when necessary, act up.
God can help us proclaim, embody, and live out the Gospel of God’s all-inclusive, unconditional, and everlasting love.

God can help; and with God’s help…we will make a difference. And this is the good news. Amen.

God help me to help others.
God help me to be a ray of your light in the world.
God help me to never give up hope.
Amen.

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