Why & How We Are Different Rev Dr Durrell Watkins Unity Sunday 2015 May God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. In most of traditional, Western Christianity today is Trinity Sunday. At Sunshine Cathedral we tend to call Trinity Sunday “Unity” Sunday, because we have a diverse congregation. Some of us […]
Why & How We Are Different
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Unity Sunday 2015
May God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.
In most of traditional, Western Christianity today is Trinity Sunday. At Sunshine Cathedral we tend to call Trinity Sunday “Unity” Sunday, because we have a diverse congregation. Some of us are Unitarian, or Monists, or Panentheists (and I won’t bore you with what those words mean because for the most part, who cares?). Some of us are Jewish, or Buddhist, or humanists, or honest and open seekers who are still sorting out our beliefs.
The image of the Trinity is meant to communicate relationship, interrelatedness, unity. So, we cut right to the chase and focus on unity, our unity with all life and with the Source of life, however one might understand that Source. The Trinity is only one symbol pointing toward Ultimate Reality, and if it isn’t a symbol that holds meaning for you, fine; there are others. And if it is a symbol that holds meaning for you, then you free to keep it.
I can tell you that the doctrine of the Trinity was hammered out in the 4th century, about 300 years after Jesus and his apostles lived among us. So, for me, it is an optional belief. Do with it what you will.
Today, I would much rather discuss something of much more vital importance to our lives, and to our world. I want to name certain realities and call us to action in order to usher in better days.
I am a religious person: baptized, confirmed, seminary educated, and ordained. I think religiously. Religion is a lens through which I see all of life. My nature is religious. Scripture and prayer and the search for meaning are as essential to me as food, water, and oxygen. I believe Religion has the unequal potential of bringing people together to form community, to ask the big questions, to celebrate joys, to comfort hurting people, to call for justice, and to help people draw strength in their most troubled hours.
Religion is one of the five basic social institutions found in every society, along with economics, education, government, and family. It can be a force of amazing good and when offered lovingly and responsibly it can offer healing in a way that few things can.
But just as water can refresh or drown and fire can warm or destroy, religion can be life-giving or deadly, uplifting or destructive, soul-liberating or soul-killing. Just as families, economies, educational systems, and governments can be high functioning or dysfunction, religion also can be used in positive ways or negative ways.
We who embrace religion can use it in positive ways by allowing it to be reasonable and relevant, hopeful and healing, by allowing it to embrace new knowledge and discoveries, and to let it evolve as the human family continues to evolve.
What I’m saying is that the world needs a different kind of church, and I believe as much as any pope, lama, guru, apostle, prophet, rabbi, imam, or magus has ever believed anything that WE are called to be that different kind of church.
And let me make as clear as I can the ways that I believe we are meant to be different:
First, I believe we need never be ashamed of nor apologetic for our historic calling. In 1968 the Rev Troy Perry started a church in his living room with 12 people. He called his church Metropolitan Community Church. It was, he believed, a new move of God to call LBGT people and their allies together to celebrate their place in the human family. Same-gender loving people were criminals in this country, and pariahs in almost every church, and Rev Perry said that God loved gay people and in fact, gayness was God’s gift to them.
Gays and Lesbians and Bisexuals were thrilled by the message, and eventually, heterosexual friends and allies and family members were attracted to the positive, inclusive, affirming message. Before too long, the message expanded to advocate for transgender and gender non-conforming people, and when the AIDS crisis hit, MCC was the first to put ecclesiastical boots on the ground, as it were, to minister to the sick, comfort the dying, bury the dead, and pray for medical breakthroughs.
Since those early days, other churches have become friendlier to the Queer community, and absolutely miraculous gains have been made in the courts and in politics for the LBGT community. But our internalized homophobia lingers and is demonstrated when we say things like, “Now that things are better and there are more places to go, is there really a need for MCC?” I can’t speak for all of MCC, only for the MCC known as Sunshine Cathedral, but I assure THIS MCC is very much needed in the world. Thank God things are better, but they are not good enough. And if they were good enough in the US and Canada and Western Europe, they are far from good enough in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe.
We should celebrate and build on our victories, not convince ourselves that our mission has been accomplished. Because I promise you that Right Wing politicians and Religious groups continue to attack, shame, vilify, demonize, and torment Queer youth; they continue to tear families apart, and they continue to export their hate across the globe. This staff ministers to their heart-broken victims every single week.
If the rest of MCC closes its doors, Sunshine Cathedral will remain centered in the power of the spirit of liberation and justice which gave birth to our movement and we will not stop reaching out with a message of hope and healing to hurting people in our world.
The second way we are called to be different is that we are not afraid of reformation, revolution, or evolution. Let other churches be museums and archives of the past, we WILL continue to evolve as the world does so that we may be relevant to the world. That is why, today, in this sacred hour, in this hallowed place, I declare Sunshine Cathedral to be a non-dogmatic house of worship.
We don’t promote dogmas here, we promote values.
We value equality. We value justice.
We value hope. We value beauty.
We value love. We value honest searching.
We value free thinking. We value sincere questions and even doubts.
We value community.
We value women and men, we value children, we value our elders, we value gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, questioning, intersex, transgender, gender non-conforming, and heterosexual persons.
We value the discoveries of science.
We value the mysteries of the universe. We value all religions that practice love and kindness.
We value the earth. We value the spiritual journey, knowing that there are many paths that can be taken on that journey.
We value generosity. We value peace.
We value human bodies. We value diversity.
Let other churches argue about the Trinity, about who can take communion, about how much water to use for baptism. Let other churches try to force science to conform to ancient myths. Let other churches argue about who is and isn’t allowed into the cosmic country club after they die. Those are dogmas and they add no joy to human lives.
In one of my daily reflections last week I offered this prayer: “Life is more mystery than magic, more search than certainty. I give thanks for my questions, the freedom to explore, for the ability to trust that life is good even when I don’t have all the answers! Amen!”
Let us be the church not only for firm believers, but also for seekers, doubters, those who need community but aren’t willing to surrender their intellect or integrity to have it. Let’s be a church for the churchless as well as for those who have long embraced the faith. Let’s not make our traditional beliefs be the price of admission for loving community.
I’m not trying taking any belief away from you it if you are empowered by it, but at Sunshine Cathedral, let us as a community be more committed to our values than to the dogmas that have for too long divided and wounded the human family.
Our readings today remind us that we are all children of God, loved by God. How we say that at Sunshine Cathedral is very simply: All people have sacred value. Another way we say that is: You are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake (you are a miracle and not a mistake).
A Sikh teaching tell us, “God is concealed in every heart.” Hindu scripture teaches, “God is seated in the hearts of all.” And the Apostle Paul said, “The spirit of God dwells in you.”
I believe that you are an expression of divine Life, that God is in you and you are forever part of God.
If you can believe that, or at least be willing to consider that it might be true, then you will be filled with life-giving hope that no circumstance or situation can take away. That’s what we have to offer at Sunshine Cathedral. Too few places are offering that message, so we must offer it passionately and continuously. Help me share this message. Support this church faithfully, and together, let’s be the different kind of church that so much of the world needs and is seeking. If we will not shrink from our calling, then we will always be a beacon of healing light for the world; and this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2015
God in me is blessing me.
God through me is blessing others.
Thank you, God.