A Message of Light Rev Dr Durrell Watkins Feb 9th, 2014 John 8.12 ~ the anonymous author imagines Jesus saying, “I am the light of the world.” 1 John 1.5 says, “God is light and in God there is no darkness.” The Apostle Paul experience God in light (Acts 9) And Matthew attributes this phrase […]
A Message of Light
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Feb 9th, 2014
John 8.12 ~ the anonymous author imagines Jesus saying, “I am the light of the world.”
1 John 1.5 says, “God is light and in God there is no darkness.”
The Apostle Paul experience God in light (Acts 9)
And Matthew attributes this phrase to Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, “ You are the light of the world.”
God is light. Jesus is light. We are light. Light (spirit, energy, life-force) is what is “really” Real.
It’s in this divine Light that we “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17).
God’s first creation or emanation (according to one of the biblical creation myths) is light (Gen 1.3).
Light is a symbol for the power, the presence, the spirit, the energy, the eternal life that individuates as each of us.
We are unlikely to consistently give or do more than we are; we can’t do better than we know ourselves to be. So, we can’t tell people they are worms in the dust and then demand that they behave with dignity, honor and compassion. If we want people to act as if they are good we must help them believe they are good. We must tell people they are the light of the world.
So, first we are encouraged to know that we are “light” (made in the divine image, filled with divine Life) and THEN to express the light that we are.
We see in scripture demonstrations of divine living:
“My message wasn’t just given with words but with demonstration of spirit and power.” The Apostle Paul (1 Cor 2.4)
“[The truly happy] have distributed freely; they have given to the poor.” Psalm 112.9
“Is not this the fast that I choose ~ to loose the bonds of injustice…to let the oppressed go free…to share your bread with the hungry, to house the homeless and clothe the naked…” Isaiah 58.6-7
This is a continuation of last week’s theme when the prophet said, “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.” Micah 6.8
The Sermon on the Mount begins with beatitudes where Jesus affirms blessings for those who have been marginalized, who have suffered, but he declares that circumstances cannot diminish one’s sacred value, and even when life seems unfair, there is still peace and happiness to be experienced because God is with and within EVERY person.
That line of thinking continues with the salt and light imagery. Jesus builds up his listeners by affirming that they are light while reminding them that light must shine.
We are good, so we are to do good, not to earn bonus points from God but to demonstrate the God qualities that are innate to us.
Carol Parker was a member and faithful volunteer at her Midwestern church for over a dozen years. Carol’s mother died and of course she thought her church would be a source of comfort during her time of grief. She probably didn’t expect them to do anything extraordinary, but she did plan to have her mother’s funeral service at her church; but, not only had Carol been an active member of her church for 12 years, she also has been in a loving, committed relationship with another woman for 20 years.
When both Carol and her life-partner were listed as survivors in her mother’s obituary, the priest of her church called her on the phone to inform her that he would not serve her communion at her mother’s funeral mass.
Assuming that he was trying to be faithful, the fact remains that the priest valued bread and wine, however much it was prayed over, more than the pain and suffering of someone who had lost her dear mother. In her time of grief, her two great loves, her church and her wife, should have lifted her up; but instead, her church denied her comfort because she would not hide or lie about the blessing her life mate was to her. No wonder the open communion table that we feature remains so powerful…it affirms rather than shames; it unites rather than excludes.
You may have read the story of Carol’s heartache in the Huffington Post last week, or on Facebook, but one need not peruse the news, the blogosphere and social media to hear these stories.
Also last week, an acquaintance of mine lost his mother. The only reason he isn’t estranged from his family is because he hasn’t given up on them, even though they have repeatedly expressed their rejection of who he is.
His family has repeatedly said cruel things to him saying that his love for another man is disordered and diabolical, well not exactly. They wouldn’t have used words with that many syllables.
What they have said is that because of who he is and who he loves they will not see him in heaven. They mean that pejoratively, but if he didn’t have to spend eternity with them I think he would be the lucky one. And anyway, it’s the 21st century, can we finally get past fire insurance religion?! Religion should affirm and encourage and heal us now, not serve as the bouncer at the cool cosmic dance club keeping the riff raff out!
Even after this young man’s mother died, a family member called him not to console him but to insist that he not bring his partner with him to the funeral.
So many times people come to me in tears to share how their families have rejected them in the name of faith. And so often, it is the rejected victim of the family dysfunction who tries to defend the family, saying that the families are just trying to be true to their understanding of religion. I think they are being gracious. It is a profound mental illness that wraps bigotry and hatred in the language of values and virtue and it is religion at its worst that would choose a homophobic or sexist or anti-Semitic or xenophobic or racist deity over one’s own child.
That’s why the message remains revolutionary and necessary, that YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD! People have heard their whole lives that they are miserable sinners, innately flawed. How liberating and healing it would be for them to finally hear that they were God’s miracle and not God’s mistake, that they were the light of the world!
A few states offer marriage equality, a few denominations will ordain and marry same-gender loving people, and sometimes we are tempted to believe that is good enough. Why make such a fuss in 2014? Because there is a woman in Missouri who is being denied communion because of her sacred union with another woman; because there is a man in Ohio who is being told by his family that he is vile and his love is illegitimate, and both on the occasion of losing loved ones; because religion is still used as a tool of oppression against Queer people, against women, against children, against people of other religions and no religion.
That’s why it is nothing less than an act of God that there is in Fort Lauderdale, FL a DIFFERENT kind of church where the past is past and the future has infinite possibilities!
Enough of dehumanizing dogma! Oh we still sing hymns and offer sacraments and preach sermons and meet on Sundays…we still look like other churches, but please God may our message be broader, bigger, and more liberating. We will insist that all genuine love is divine and that all people have sacred value, and beyond that, let us be dogma free.
That is why we emphasize the omnipresence of divine Love. There’s not a spot where God is not. It is not possible to be lost form divine Love. If God is love, and God is omnipresent, then divine Love is everywhere fully present and will never let any of us go for any reason. If God is omnipresent Love then God CANNOT let any of us go for any reason.
I am so tired of teens being bullied because of the misuse of religion.
I am so tired of youth winding up homeless because of the misuse of religion.
I am so tired of people destroying their health with drugs or alcohol abuse because their sense of self has been destroyed by religion.
I am so tired of learning that people can’t have healing closure at a funeral because priests and families use even burial to assault LBGT loved ones.
I am so tired of human pettiness, bigotry, ignorance, and hatred being presented as if these debilitating, deleterious character flaws where divine.
I am so tired of people lacking the courage, the conviction, the character to own their own prejudices and hatreds…but instead hiding behind the language of religion as if the gods of Olympus dictated their reprehensible, soul-killing, dignity crushing abuse of people they don’t understand or like.
We can’t undo all the damage that has been done in the world; we can’t heal all the wounds that have been inflicted; but we can build a different kind of church that tells all who need to hear it that they are the light of the world, the salt of the earth, children of God made in the image and likeness of God, part of the creation that God calls very good!
Your presence in worship, your positive speech, your loving prayers, your consistent generosity, your support of the vision and mission of this progressive, positive, and practical ministry is reaching more and more people with the life-saving, soul-soothing message that we all have sacred value, that we are all part of the divine diversity of creation, that God’s love embraces every person.
If you have heard from politicians, parents or priests that you are beyond the reach of God’s love, it’s a lie.
If you have heard that God will reject you for being honest about who God created you to be, it is a lie.
If you have heard that the only way to experience after life joy is to hate who you are in this life, it is a lie, it is a lie, it is a lie.
And my promise to you is that Sunshine Cathedral is not nearly done sharing Jesus’ message in as many ways as possible to as many people as possible that YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2014
I am God’s light.
I am God’s love.
I am God’s miracle.
We all are.
And I will share this good news.