Hoping, Waiting, Working Rev Dr Durrell Watkins Emily Dickinson wrote these words: “Hope is a thing with feather that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.” That poem is very present with me today after a recent visit to my hometown. I loved the cooler weather, […]
Hoping, Waiting, Working
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Emily Dickinson wrote these words:
“Hope is a thing with feather that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”
That poem is very present with me today after a recent visit to my hometown. I loved the cooler weather, the mountain views, and time spent with loved ones. But I was also struck by how even in a state that now has marriage equality, attitudes remain very oppressive. I heard insults about people who didn’t measure up to some people’s predetermined expectations of gender roles. I also heard the most outrageously insensitive comments about race and ethnicity. It reminded me that on the West Coast and the East Coast, in urban areas and academic settings, we find ourselves believing that the world is much safer, kinder, and more inclusive, but there is another world only a time zone away from here, and honestly, just across Alligator Alley for that matter, where people are at great risk just for being who they are.
Of course, that shouldn’t surprise any of us. From Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown, we see that some people live with more danger simply for being who they are.
Sometimes people will say they are tired of hearing about social justice, economic justice, marriage equality, racism, immigration…they are tired of hearing about the problems in the world and they just want to ignore them. And perhaps they can, if they are also willing to ignore the gospel.
The gospel message is one of hope, but it is hope that empowers the oppressed to confront oppression, and that challenges the comfortable to care about the less comfortable. The good news is that Caesar’s world is not good enough, and we must work to establish a divine kin-dom in its place, a world where justice and compassion are both civil and spiritual values that are held in higher regard than power and privilege.
The gospel message is about an illiterate peasant from an occupied territory who touched the untouchables and helped those who were mentally and physically ill feel whole again, who recognized the sacred value of women, children, beggars, lepers, prostitutes, and Samaritans…all people who were regularly dehumanized in his day but the rural peasant Jesus affirmed the so-called “least of these” and called them to see the light of God within themselves.
The gospel message is about looking at things as they appear to be, and daring to see a higher Reality beyond the appearance. The gospel message is about embracing and sharing outrageous hope. Hope isn’t simply wishing things will self-correct; hope is saying your pain isn’t how things out to be, and together we can work to make things better for everyone.
In a world of such abundance, every person should have a safe place to sleep, plenty of food, opportunities for education, an income their whole life long, medical care that doesn’t depend on their bank account, clean water and air, and the chance to love and be loved without fear of violence or condemnation.
Jesus said the kin-dom of God is at hand, that is, in our hands; it’s ours to make real. And if you are gay man in Texarkana, Arkansas, a lesbian in Longview, TX, a transgender person in Dothan, AL, a bi-racial couple in Dyersburg, TN, an immigrant in Mesa, AZ, a woman facing a difficult procreative choice in Tupelo, MS, a bullied teen in Wichita, KS, or a homeless person in Fort Lauderdale, FL then you know better than anyone that every bit of progress we’ve made has come with resistance, there remains a host of people committed to derailing the progress, and the best of scenarios leaves a lot of work to be done. The kin-dom of God is still in our hands; it’s up to us to release it into the world.
The gospel reading today sounded apocalyptic, but we don’t need to get too hung up on that. Our texts these last few weeks leading up to Advent have shared that tone, and we have discovered as we unpacked each one that they aren’t messages of gloom and doom; they are messages of hope. They are acknowledging the pain of their day, and imagining that pain being wiped out and replaced with a better world experience. Today’s reading is no exception.
Mark is writing only 4 decades after the execution of Jesus, and possibly just weeks or months after the destruction of Jerusalem. The Roman Empire has destroyed the holy city and its’ Jewish Temple. Mark has witnessed the end of his world; but he imagines the sun growing dim and stars falling from the sky (symbolizing Roman authorities losing their power one day) and he imagines a super human like figure, the Human One, or Son of Humanity riding on clouds coming to save the day. But the Human One is us, and the cloud is the divine Presence which always fills and enfolds us.
Mark imagines the world of empire ending, and human potential rising in glory to create a better world, a world of compassion and justice and peace. We are still waiting for that world; and until we know that our hands are God’s hands and God can only do for us what we allow God to do through us, we will continue to wait.
Advent is a season of waiting. We wait for something to breakthrough. We wait for Christ to be revealed again. But not as a baby in a first century stable, but as a spark of hope in every stable, every humble place, every place of pain, every place where justice has not yet prevailed. We are waiting for the courage to become Christ in the world. We are waiting to become the Human One riding on clouds of hope to offer the world a better vision, a better way, a better day.
So, while we wait let us also work, and let us renew our hope to levels rarely seen in our world.
The German writer Goethe wrote, “In all things it is better to hope than to despair.”
Nelson Mandela counseled, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
And the greatest of all prophets, the sage known only as Anonymous, has said, “When the world says, ‘Give up,’ Hope whispers, ‘Try it one more time.’”
Will you join me in hoping today?
I hope to reach more people with Sunshine Cathedral’s progressive, positive, practical spirituality than ever before.
I hope to see healing miracles in people’s lives…
that means people in their 90s surrounded with love until their final day,
people with cancer experiencing complete remission,
people with diabetes controlling their condition,
people with alzheimer’s finding treatments that keep them alert,
people with HIV having undetectable viral loads,
people with depression reclaiming their joy…
And I hope for cures to be found for HIV, MS, Alzheimer’s, Cancer, and every dis-ease that brings terror or pain to people’s lives.
I hope with the prophets to see swords beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks (May peace prevail on earth!)
I hope for Sunshine Cathedral to be a consistent voice of justice and compassion.
I hope for Sunshine Cathedral to continue building a culture of gratitude and generosity.
I hope to see marriage equality in all 50 states and throughout the world.
I hope to see healing in Ferguson, MO, and everywhere that the pain of racism past and present continues to tear communities apart.
I hope to instill hope in the life of every person connected in any way to Sunshine Cathedral.
Will you hope with me? Will you know our hopes can come true? Will you remind yourself that today could be the day that a miracle takes place for someone?
Will you let your hope be the clouds that carry us, the Human Ones, the sons and daughters of humanity allowing God to express through us to offer a healing touch to the world?
Will you hope for health and prosperity and happiness for all people? Will you hope with me, and wait with me, and work with me to make the kin-dom of God a reality? If so, then the Advent of Christ is here indeed, and the world will be better because of it. And this is the good news! Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2014
Thank you, God, for the power of hope.
I will hope for healing in the world.
I will let hope sustain me daily.
Hope is alive in me!
And so it is.