Spiritual Liberation Rev. Dr. Robert Griffin It is fascinating to me that a universal liberation movement for the entire world would begin in an ancient pocket of political oppression at that time, in the land of Zeb-u-lon and Naph-ta-li, which involves a great story about Deborah, a prophetess of God, telling her top military person […]
Rev. Dr. Robert Griffin
It is fascinating to me that a universal liberation movement for the entire world would begin in an ancient pocket of political oppression at that time, in the land of Zeb-u-lon and Naph-ta-li, which involves a great story about Deborah, a prophetess of God, telling her top military person to take soldiers from both nations and go and take some property at Mt. Tabor. The military later tells Deborah, out of mistrust, I won’t go unless you go … so Deborah goes and there is a victory. The troops are humbled because a woman of God led them to victory. Then Zebulon and Naphtali tried to move the Canaanites out of their land, and it didn’t happen, so they decided to just move in with them and things kinda went downhill from there. And that is a much abbreviated version of how we get to our gospel reading today.
Matthew views Jesus as the prophetic fulfillment of the liberation movement spoken of by Isaiah. But the first thing that we need to note is that there is a word change between what is written in Isaiah and what is quoted in Matthew. Isaiah 9.2 says, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Matthew quotes this verse a little differently by saying, “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
In Isaiah, it is the people who walked in darkness who have seen a great light and those who lived in a land of deep darkness on whom the light has shown. In Matthew it is those who have sat (lived) in darkness and those who sat in the region and the shadow of darkness who have seen a great light.
Matthew’s image, to me, highlights a sense of darkness that the prison of oppression might bring to one either figuratively or physically. Like John, in our gospel, locked in prison, I would imagine was not so much worried him about his physical incarceration, because in John’s day, being locked up for speaking out against the authorities meant going to prison or worse. I would imagine John was more concerned about his spiritual incarceration and not wanting his present circumstances to hinder the larger message he was attempting to share.
Now, when we look at this story from a different perspective, we can see that many of us live with some form of spiritual incarceration every day. I believe that spiritual incarceration immobilizes us on many levels. It may come in the form of self doubt, telling ourselves that we are not worthy, allowing our past to hold us back, allowing a decision that happened 5 or 10 years ago to keep us wondering “what if we had made another decision,” meanwhile, life is passing us by. But in proclaiming that light is breaking through from the kin-dom of God, Jesus, in this story, is initiating a movement of spiritual liberation.
When we look at our first reading today, we can hear the words of the Psalmist as good news that will help us overcome whatever we might be immobilized by today.
We hear as an affirmation, “God is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? God is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
We can hear the words of the Psalm as good news when we move into Divine Unity when we hear, “One thing have I asked of God, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of God all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of God, and to inquire in the temple.”
And when we allow these words to dwell in our spirit we can then offer Praise & Gratitude, as we hear, “And now my head shall be lifted up…and I will offer in God’s tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to God.”
The metaphor of light dispelling darkness is sometimes used for finding good in spite of trouble, of having hope even when things seem hopeless, of going to peace instead of to pieces when things are difficult. If God is our light (if divine life is our life, if the divine presence is omnipresent), then we can find comfort in knowing that difficulties aren’t forever, but divine life (our life) is (“God is my light…whom shall I fear?”).
Thinking of reasons for hope, for gratitude, for believing things can get better is like lighting a candle when life seems dim or desperate.
Thinking of reasons for hope, for gratitude, for believing things can get better is like lighting a candle and realizing that wherever we are, the Divine is and all will be well.
Thinking of reasons for hope, for gratitude, for believing things can get better is like lighting a candle and realizing that we need no longer live in our past, but rather look to our future and know it is filled infinite possibilities.
Thinking of reasons for hope, for gratitude, for believing things can get better is like lighting a candle knowing without a doubt that our lives can and will be transformed for the better. And that we need not wait for tomorrow or the next day, but that that transformation can begin right here and right now.
And we here at Sunshine Cathedral have had testimonies of people sharing what it has been like to experience transformation:
One person wrote:
“The first time I came to Sunshine Cathedral, having not set foot in a Christian church in /years/, I stood in the pews and cried for like half the service, and the whole drive home. I had /never/ felt really welcome in a church before I went there. When I got home, I emailed a Christian friend whom I’d told beforehand that I was going to try going to the MCC, and I said to her,
“THIS is what I’ve always needed. A church for all the ‘black sheep’ to come together in our ‘black-sheep-ness’!
Another person wrote, “There aren’t words enough to describe how much I wish I could transplant the entire Sunshine Cathedral community to where I live [out here to CO with me.] Fortunately, we live in the age of the Internet, so at least I can still maintain some connection.”
Sunshine Cathedral, when we light the candle of a positive, progressive and practical message, transformation will happen.
Presbyterian minister Alan Brehm: “…God’s presence doesn’t always change the circumstances that create fear; but God’s presence does lift the fear itself and remind us that whatever we…suffer in this life is not the ultimate truth of our lives.”
Sunshine Cathedral, when we light the candle of a positive, progressive and practical message, we keep hope alive.
Lisa Nichols reminds us that, “Every single thing you’ve been through, every single moment that you’ve come through, were to all prepare you for this moment right now. Imagine what you can do from this day forward with what you know…How much more do you get to be? How many people more people do you get to bless, simply by your existence?…No one else can dance your dance, no one else can sing you song, no one else can write your story. Who you are, what you do, begins right now!”
Nichols suggests, in the alliteration of our senior pastor Durrell Watkins that it is possible to salvage
Comfort from Chaos,
Hope from horror,
Meaning from Misery
Purpose from Pain
Serenity from Sorrow
Overcome fear by looking more for what is left than for what is lost, for what is possible beyond the problem, for how new beginnings can emerge from failures or disappointments.
Sunshine Cathedral, when we light the candle of new beginnings, we keep the doors open for that one person who has yet to experience that moment that they need to know that despite the fact of what they may be going through that all will be well!
When I read the words of Nichols, it reminds me that we have proclaimed 2014 as a Year Transformation here at the Sunshine Cathedral and brings even more meaning to our affirmations, that the past is past and our future has infinite possibilities.
In 1959, Dr King speaking to a Jewish congregation in the midwest offered a message of hope even when current situations are less than ideal… “I have faith in the future. I believe in the future because I believe in God. I believe there is a creative force in this universe, call it what you may. Maybe you don’t believe in a personal God…you may refer to [it] as Being itself or as an impersonal Brahman or as an unconscious force or as an unmoved mover; call it what you may. There is a creative force in this universe that seeks to bring together the disconnected aspects of reality into a harmonious whole. There is a power…” Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.
I believe that we have the power within us to bring about our own moments of spiritual liberations.
I believe that we have the power within us to bring about our own comfort, hope, meaning, purpose and serenity and when we can’t find it within ourselves we have a higher power to which we can turn.
Because like the Buddha says, “We are shaped by our thoughts; what we think, we become.” May our thoughts only be thoughts that bring joy, happiness and spiritual liberation to our lives. And this is the good news! Amen.
I am Divine
I am hope
I am love
My life has meaning and purpose
I live in complete Serenity
And so it is … Amen