The Favor of God Sunday, December 28th Rev Dr Robert Griffin Our gospel reading today tells us that, “When they had finished everything required (by religious tradition, that is, the dedication and circumcision of their son)…they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and […]
The Favor of God
Sunday, December 28th
Rev Dr Robert Griffin
Our gospel reading today tells us that, “When they had finished everything required (by religious tradition, that is, the dedication and circumcision of their son)…they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.”
Now when I think of the “favor of God” being on Jesus, I think of others who I believe had God’s favor.
Most of the great leaders in scripture: Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Noah, John the Baptizer, Esther, Ruth, Judith, the apostles, David…they made mistakes, they had character flaws, they weren’t always perfect, but they were each favored by God, used by God to make a big difference in the world.
Some of the great leaders in Christian history who were used greatly by God, who apparently experienced divine favor and made a big difference in the world include progressive Christian Bishop John Shelby Spong,
the first woman bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion Barbara Harris,
preacher/scholar/activist Howard Thurman,
lesbian feminist Dr Carter Heyward who was one of the first eleven women ordained to the Episcopal Church in the USA,
and the recently departed Rev Johnnie Colemon who founded the Universal Foundation for Better Living.
Other people come to mind who have had a special something, an anointing if you will, who have been used as a positive influence, a beam of light in the world:
Eleanor Roosevelt, who following her husband’s death, continued her humanitarian efforts as a member of the first American delegation to the U.N. and helped develop the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UNICEF. In recognizing Roosevelt’s legacy of advocacy for the underprivileged both nationally and abroad, President Harry Truman famously dubbed her “First Lady of the World.”
Mary McLeod Bethune, with a desire to serve others, was a dedicated educator. Bethune’s constant search for more money for African American educational needs prompted her to form powerful relationships with John D. Rockefeller as well as Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt. Bethune, founded her own school, which is now known as Bethune-Cookman University.
Mother Teresa, the Albanian nun made her way to India in 1929, building her start-up missionary community of 13 members into a global network of more than 4,000 sisters running orphanages and AIDS hospices. The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize inspired countless volunteers to serve, and has already achieved Roman Catholic beatification.
Thurgood Marshall tried many cases before the Supreme Court, winning 29 of them. The most famous and perhaps most important win was 1954’s landmark Brown v. Board victory overturning the “separate but equal” doctrine that had been in place since 1896. He was appointed the nation’s first African-American Supreme Court Justice in 1967 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Marshall worked tirelessly to ensure that liberty and equality applied to all Americans until his retirement in 1991.
Sandra Day O’Connor, in 1981 was unanimously confirmed by Congress, ending the 191 years of the court as an exclusively male institution. She said upon her confirmation, “I think the important fact about my appointment is not that I will decide cases as a woman but that I am a woman who will get to decide cases.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – who is synonymous with the Civil Rights Movement for many, rose to prominence during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a pivotal blow against segregation. Dr. King inspired a nation with his “I Have a Dream” speech delivered during 1963’s historic March on Washington.
Unwilling to let her husband’s legacy die, Coretta Scott King immediately created the King Center and she went on to speak to many issues including LGBT equality. She said before her death, “I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice, but I hasten to remind them that Martin said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brother and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.”
And last but not least, I recall that in 1968, 9 months before New York’s Stonewall Riots, a series of most unlikely events in Southern California resulted in the birth of a prophetic, justice-seeking church with a primary, positive ministry to gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender persons and their allies. This amazing new church, called Metropolitan Community Church when we had just one parish in Los Angeles, and now Metropolitan Community Churches since we are a global movement, was founded by Troy D. Perry.
Troy Perry was a minister who had been defrocked for being gay. He left the ministry for a while, but through various life events, reconnected with God and was given a vision for a spiritual community that would welcome, affirm, and celebrate same-gender loving people. He held the first MCC worship service in his living room for just 12 people, but that humble beginning gave rise to an international movement that includes the Sunshine Cathedral.
Since those early days, MCC has matured, become more sophisticated, and even more progressive, and has made room for many expressions of spirituality, including the progressive, positive, practical spirituality modeled by Sunshine Cathedral, but we must never forget that it was earth moving and world changing when Troy first called out to LBGT people with a message of hope telling them that God created them to be exactly who they were, that the love they had to share was a gift from God.
The Rev Dr Nancy Wilson is MCC’s Presiding Elder and Moderator today, leading the movement that God’s favor on Troy Perry’s life brought to life.
Now, from the bible heroes to Christian leaders, from diplomats to educators, from activists to spiritual teachers, there is one thing these great people had in common. They weren’t flawless, they sometimes made mistakes, but they were willing to believe that God believed in them; they allowed God’s favor to express through them.
These leaders were both hearers and doers of God’s word; that is, they not only believed in God, they believed God had a place for them and they were willing to allow God to use them to bless their world.
No one, I would even include Jesus, starts out great. We all have greatness in us, but we must learn to recognize it, trust it, and allow ourselves to express it.
Greatness is expressed with accomplishments, accomplishments come by risking, by trying one more time, and still one more time because determination will not let us give up.
As we prepare to end the year 2014, I want you to remember that “Great events turn upon the hinges of little happenings” (Clarence Edward McCartney)
We’ve had a good year at Sunshine Cathedral, and hopefully you’ve had great moments in your life in 2014, but 2015 is coming and the new year needs us to be our best, do our best, and continue to reach out with healing love to our world.
We are not called to be any of the names that I mentioned earlier, but those leaders remind us that we each have gifts to share and when we do our part in the name of justice, we are tapping into and turning on the hinges of God’s favor.
I believe that God’s favored ones, those who are blessed, do not sit quietly by when an injustice is taking place that relates to women’s rights issues and their bodies.
I believe that God’s favored ones, those who are blessed, do not sit quietly by when voting disenfranchisement happens to any one group of people.
I believe that God’s favored ones, those who are blessed, do not sit quietly by when gun law regulations and in some cases, the lack thereof, need to be addressed.
I believe that God’s favored ones, those who are blessed, do not sit quietly by when gays and lesbians in Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, and Eastern Europe are in danger of losing their lives simply because of who they are.
I believe that God’s favored ones, those who are blessed, do not sit quietly by when Immigration concerns are on the table. When a group of people is only good enough to care for our lawns or picking tomatoes, when families are separated because of a pieces of paper, when boarder babies are housed worse than we treat our pets…we have a problem that must be addressed.
I believe that God’s favored ones, those who are blessed, do not sit quietly by when acts of injustice within various law enforcement organizations go unchecked.
As justice seekers, as followers of Jesus, as people dedicated to God and blessed with God’s favor, we cannot be comfortable until we have done our part in making sure that justice prevails for all.
When we do what we can, we can hold our heads up with Apostle Paul and declare that we “are no longer in bondage; we are children of God, and as God’s children, we are also an heir” to all that God has to offer and what God has to offer is not just for us but for everyone.
We are blessed, but that means we are blessed to be a blessing, to care for others, to heal the broken hearted, to affirm the sacred value of all people, to declare divine favor on every life. And this is the good news.
I give thanks for God’s favor on my life.
I affirm that I am blessed.
And I am willing to share my blessings with the world.