Dare to Care and Share Rev Dr Durrell Watkins Feb 2nd 2014 The Tao te Ching teaches, “I teach three treasures which you may keep close by. The first is compassion. The second is humility. The third is simplicity. Compassionate, a person can be courageous. Simple, a person can be open to all visions. Humble, […]
Dare to Care and Share
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Feb 2nd 2014
The Tao te Ching teaches, “I teach three treasures which you may keep close by. The first is compassion. The second is humility. The third is simplicity. Compassionate, a person can be courageous. Simple, a person can be open to all visions. Humble, a person can develop leadership.”
Doesn’t that sound remarkably like that beautiful verse we heard from the prophet Micah this morning.
This is what is required of us, ONLY to work for justice, and to love kindness, and to live humbly in the presence of whatever we consider sacred.
Justice, compassion, and humility. That’s the divine trifecta.
We are certainly free to pray with beads or splash around with water rituals.
We can have coffee hours and high spirited hallelujah hoe downs.
We can wear costumes, I mean vestments, from centuries long gone.
We can sing hymns and create art and share symbolic feasts.
We CAN do all of these things, and more. But that’s for us. That makes us happy. That expresses our creativity. That connects us to others who observe similar rituals and who are looking in similar ways for hope, comfort, strength, and wisdom.
We can do almost anything that doesn’t deny the sacred value of others, that doesn’t endanger our planet, or that doesn’t deprive others of their basic needs or rights. But what OUGHT we to do?
We CAN do lots of things that we enjoy, but what OUGHT we to do?
Micah, unlike some other writers, doesn’t lose his point in poetic flair. He says what he means, and presumably, he means what he says. What he thinks are signs of a life devoted to holiness are simply to care about justice, compassion, and humble, balanced living.
Now, compassion is easy enough to understand.
If someone is hurting, we notice, we care, we express concern.
We just show some simple kindness.
A smile, a hug, an encouraging email, a Facebook post, even to simply offer a prayer for someone…there are countless ways to show some measure of care and concern for one who is hurting.
And humility is easy enough to understand, though not always easy to demonstrate.
We want to have pride in ourselves, but our pride shouldn’t be the sort of conceit that suggests I’m good because I’m better than someone I view has bad…that’s not goodness, that’s just being less heinous than someone, and that’s no great compliment. I’ve heard it said that humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s just thinking of yourself less.
So when we can affirm our sacred value, appreciate our gifts, know what we are good at and know that we are then responsible to share our talents to bless the world around us and we can do all that without feeling superior to others or entitled to more than others or feeling privileged because of who are, if we can achieve that delicate but life-giving balance, then that is healthy humility.
I recently saw a great Facebook meme that said, “Privilege is thinking something isn’t a problem because it isn’t a problem for you.” If we can dismiss the plight of immigrants because by accident of birth we grew up in the country we want to live in, in other words, if can dismiss someone’s struggle to live a life of dignity and hope because we haven’t had to face their particular struggle, that means we are operating from a place of privilege, and that isn’t living humbly with our God, is it?
Of course the list could go on for days…if we can hold onto some ancient prejudice and call it a value or a matter of righteousness, if we can, say, try to silence women or deny same-gender loving people the joy of building a life with the person who has occupied their hearts, if we can ignore the overwhelming loss of indigenous peoples or fail to care about the long lasting devastation caused by imperialism and colonization, then we are operating from privilege rather than from the humble and healthy view that we all have sacred value and we all deserve to live lives of happiness, health, and opportunity.
So, care about people who are hurting and believe in yourself because you are a child of the universe and not because you are glad to not be in a group of people you look down on…that’s what is meant by living with kindness and holy humility; but what about the justice piece?
Justice simply means that we aren’t concerned about just us.
We don’t have to march in the streets or become attorneys bringing class action suits against mega-corporations. Maybe we are called to do one or the other of those things, but voting for candidates who want to defend the rights of those who have been marginalized as well as represent the luckier among us…that’s working for justice.
Giving to justice seeking work like what we do here at Sunshine Cathedral, and supporting other just causes as well, that’s working for justice.
Refusing to abuse children or pets, caring about the environment, volunteering for an organization that serves some population in need, that’s working for justice.
Standing up, even if it’s only at dinner with friends, for people who suffer from depression, or for people who have been denied access to quality health care, or for people who have been abused because their gender experience doesn’t fit neatly into artificial binaries that mostly privilege a narrow definition of maleness, that’s working for justice.
Even to say we want to build a spiritual community that sees gender as a continuum, that sees all mutually loving relationships as holy, that says God is not a boy’s name and the planet is our mother and not our toy and that all people are made in the divine image and no one, regardless of their religious affiliation, is every outside the all-loving omnipresence…to believe in and to support such a vision is to work for justice.
So, there are many ways to work for justice, and as long as the motivation is remembering that justice is never about just us, we’re probably on the right track.
God has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what is required of you? Only to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. That remains a powerful and relevant lesson even today.
And isn’t that what Universalist minister and women’s rights activist Olympia Brown (1835-1926) was saying when she boldly affirmed, “Every nation must learn that the people of all nations are the children of God, and must share the wealth of the world”?
And isn’t that what Jesus was doing in the beatitudes? Just simply showing kindness and humility and a passion for justice by affirming that people, even in their pain, are children of God and they deserve to feel good about who they are in the world.
The disadvantaged, the bereaved, those who risk their own safety to bring about peace, those who long for a richer experience of divine Life, those who try to do good even when their efforts don’t seem to pay off, those who seek to serve and assist those less fortunate than themselves, and even those who have been vilified, humiliated, persecuted, abused, abandoned, or falsely accused…all of these people with all of their various kinds of sufferings and challenges are still children of God. Even when things are difficult, they still have a right to believe that God believes in them; they still have a right to experience a peace that passes understanding, and an assurance that even when the fit hits the shan, it remains an eternal verity that there is not a spot where God is not.
And to affirm them, to name them, to see goodness within them, to openly wish them increased happiness and to hope with them for better days, that is an act of kindness, that is an act of uplifting humility, that is an act of justice, and that is exactly what the beatitudes are doing, that is exactly what Jesus is modeling in our gospel text today.
Neither the prophet Micah nor the Galilean prophet Jesus in his sermon on the mount tell us that the number of sacraments you have or the day of the week you call holy or the presence or absence of a y chromosome in your marriage is what ultimately matters in the spiritual life. No, they both are pretty emphatic that seeing the divine spark in every life and working to acknowledge, affirm, and celebrate that spark is what matters most. What you call God isn’t nearly as important as how treat God’s people, which is all people. Or, to paraphrase Jesus, blessed are all kinds of people, no matter what they are going through in life. God’s love enfolds them; God’s light indwells them. God cares about them and so should we all.
Or, as Micah said so succinctly and perfectly, “God has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what is required of you? Only to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Or, we could put it in our own language: . The religion of Jesus and the prophets is just this~Dare to Care and Share.
That’s all; and this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2014
May God fill me with hope, peace, and joy.
As I am blessed, I choose to bless others.
With God’s help I will dare to care and share.