Grace

On July 8, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Grace 2 Cor. 12.2-10 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. When I was a kid I loved the television show Bewitched. The show had […]

Grace
2 Cor. 12.2-10
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.

When I was a kid I loved the television show Bewitched.
The show had humor and hijinx, colorful sets and costumes, and lots of magic to stir the imagination. Of course I loved it. It lasted 8 seasons…apparently a lot of people loved it.

But it was more for me. It wasn’t just fun. It was something much deeper.

Samantha, the lead character played by Elizabeth Montgomery, was erudite, beautiful, clever, and kind. She was good by almost criterion. But she had a secret. She had spent her life in the shadows, in an underground community, a sub-culture not known about in mainstream society. When she was around “normal” people, she kept that secret to herself. It wouldn’t do for her to be outed, to be discovered for the different sort of person she was.

Her secret, of course, was that she was part of a magical lineage and tribe. She was a witch. Some people didn’t believe that witchcraft was even a real thing. Others thought it must be bad or scary. Still others, if they knew about it, would want to exploit it for their personal gain or advancement. So, the witching world hid from the rest of the world.

A minority, forced to hide. Gifted, lovers of life, capable of great joy and generosity, but still afraid to be known and forced to hide what made them unique, special. This show was saying something to me.

Then there was Endora. Samantha’s mother (portrayed by the ineffable Agnes Moorehead) who paraded around in colorful kaftans, big hair, false eyelashes and garish costume jewelry…Endora was my first experience of a drag queen!

Samantha married a “normal” person and so she no longer hid in her community; she now integrated into the larger society. She wasn’t just hiding now; she was denying who she was. She was passing as normal, non-magical, not different. And that annoyed her mother. She was annoyed that Samantha caved into the bigoted systems that said she shouldn’t even exist, or if she did, she should lie about it.

Hiding in the safety of a ghettoized community was one thing, but denying one’s truth entirely in order to be accepted by those who would not affirm her if they really knew her, that was a soul-killing deception and Endora could not abide it. So, she was always begging her daughter to embrace her heritage and to live as the person she was meant to be, even if it meant returning to the gayborhood, I mean, magical community.

Then, to really real me in, there was Uncle Arthur…a clown, a trickster, a vaudevillian…and he was played by an obviously gay man (Paul Lynde). The show was called Bewitched but I felt like I was watching This is Your Life.

A closeted witch, a drag queen activist, and a fairy (well, a gay warlock anyway). People struggling to understand themselves and coexist with a larger culture while knowing themselves to be different and special and gifted, while both enjoying their gifts and living in fear of them being discovered: This story was my story, somehow. This fantasy felt all the world like my reality.

The witches hid or lied about their true identity. What I could see, and maybe what I was meant to see, was that what made them different is what made them special. Their unique gifts gave them power. Grace had bestowed upon them the gift of specialness, abilities that others didn’t have and couldn’t even understand. They lived in the margins, but even there, they were amazing, maybe more than they realized.

We all have gifts. Maybe, more than we realize.

In our scripture reading today, Paul is writing, again, to a group in Corinth. Paul has an awkward and sometimes contentious relationship with the Corinthians. They are impressed by psychic gifts, mysticism, paranormal activity – the flashy gifts.

Paul has already told them to stop trying to outdo one another with their various spiritual talents. It’s not a competition. Whatever you’re good at, put it to use in the church to help the church thrive so that it can reach more people with a message of hope. It’s not about who has more gifts or more impressive gifts, it’s about all of us doing all we can to collectively be our very best.

But apparently, someone has come along and demonstrated phenomenal abilities, astral projecting and what not. And Paul, who is repeatedly trying to get the Corinthians to accept his credentials, says,
“So you know a guy! I know someone who flies off into the heavens now and then and hears things so weird and woogie that he can’t even talk about it when he gets back.”

Paul doesn’t have that ability. So he has to affirm the gift that he has. He discovers that his so called weakness is actually his strength. How he handles his difficulty is his gift!

Paul’s overcome some stuff. Paul used religion to justify cruelty before his own enlightenment. He’s no longer that monster, but he is still haunted by his past. Also, he knows the pain of unanswered prayer. He has prayed repeatedly for God to remove a thorn from his flesh, and the thorn remains.

Is the thorn regret for his past cruelty? Is it a physical malady? Is something no one can see?

You know, we never hear of a Mrs. Paul. He’s friends with Lydya, a woman who leads an all women’s community?
And, he visits Mytelene (which, by the way, is the capital of Lesbos). Paul’s singleness and comfort in Sapphic communities may tell us something about Paul. What’s in Paul’s closet?

Is having same gender attraction his thorn? And does he finally come to realize that it is also his gift? He asked God to take it away, and God wouldn’t. He thought something about him was thorny, but maybe in prayer he realizes that God isn’t going to make him be something he isn’t because he’s already who God created him to be.

“My grace is sufficient for you.”
Therefore, (Paul says), “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities…because grace helps me find strength in the weakness!”

Your gifts, your power, your ability may not be flashy, others may not value it, they may not understand it but it is more than enough.

Things aren’t always pretty. They aren’t always easy. They aren’t always fair. But GRACE!

Grace is enough.
Grace says, “You are loved and nothing will separate you from God’s love.”
Grace says, “Even in your weakness you can find strength.”
Grace says, “There is no cruelty in God, and there need not be any in you.”
Grace says, “Your circumstances do not define you.”
Grace says, “You can go to peace instead of to pieces.”

Grace can neither be earned nor lost; it is the unconditional, all-inclusive, everlasting love of God.
My grace is enough.

Maybe that’s why Paul told the Corinthians in his previous letter, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

You’re probably not a broom flying sorcerer, and you may not have vacationed in the third heaven lately, but you have other gifts.
You may be transgender.
You may be a long term HIV survivor or a cancer survivor or depression survivor.
You may be gay or lesbian or bisexual (praise God).
You may be finding strength and courage you never knew you had as you face disappointment, grief, or hardship.
You may be generous, or compassionate, or kind.

Whatever you are, it is God’s gift to you, it is a result of God’s grace, and it is enough.

You are enough.
You are always enough.
It is by the grace of God you are what you are. And this is the good news! Amen.

By the grace of God I am what I am.
And what I am is God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.
Alleluia!
Amen.

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