What’s Good? Rev Dr Durrell Watkins June 7th, 2015 As I look around lately, I see so many fearful people who resist progress because they are scared of change; they worry that if the world changes, even if it changes to be fairer for more people, that they will somehow lose something. They suffer from […]
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
June 7th, 2015
As I look around lately, I see so many fearful people who resist progress because they are scared of change; they worry that if the world changes, even if it changes to be fairer for more people, that they will somehow lose something.
They suffer from a scarcity mentality; they think there is only so much abundance in the world, and if more people have access to it, that means less for them. This attitude appears selfish and mean, but mostly it is myopic and anxious. They really are afraid, and when they act out of their fear, they scare others, and they hurt people.
But so many people fearing a loss of power and privilege means that things are changing, and for the better. More and more people are starting to sense that they are approaching the promise land. And those who think the world can only be good for them if it’s limited and unfair for others are mistaken. The day will come when they will realize that we live in an abundant universe and when we learn to share and play well with others, there is plenty for everyone. We really can all have access to education, healthcare, employment, housing, civil rights and equal opportunity.
But as Big Mama used to say; “I can show you better than I can tell you.”
We are going to have to show people that women having control over their own bodies doesn’t threaten men.
We are going to have to show people that marriage equality in no way weakens marriage or families; in fact, it strengthens them.
We are going to have to show people that honoring the innate dignity and sacred value of all people doesn’t hurt religion…in fact, it’s a living out of religion’s truest and most noble principles.
We have to work for justice and equality so that we can show those who fear it that their fears were misplaced.
We can affirm all people, and no one will be diminished for it.
This week alone, I have noticed that pundits and commentators and leaders have been particularly desperate. I don’t rejoice at their fear; it’s fear that makes them so seemingly hostile. But I do rejoice that the positive changes are coming and they are obvious even to those who most vehemently oppose them.
Just this week, you may have read or heard about a writer who called for violent vigilantism to combat marriage equality. He said satanic minions in our government were using marriage equality to criminalize Christianity, and he thought violence was the appropriate reaction to this imagined demonic attack…
Or about the commentator who declared on a radio program that Ireland has rebelled against God by voting for nationwide marriage equality. He said that such action for equality will result in the destruction of western civilization. Apparently people who are already gay, who already love each other, can simply make promises to each other pray for the grace to keep those promises and that will destroy civilization. Who knew?…
Or about a talk radio host who said on his show that there are at least 10,000 pastors ready to die opposing marriage equality. He failed to mention who was training, financing, and deploying the death squads that would be hunting these anti-gay clergy. He also failed to explain where law enforcement would be while thousands of pastors were being slaughtered by unknown forces simply for their disdain of gay people.
And you might have read about a high school senior in northern Florida who came out on Twitter. His private school reacted by banning him from an awards ceremony; oh, PS, it was an awards ceremony for MUSICAL THEATRE. And I can’t even repeat some of the unenlightened, mean-spirited, cruel things people have posted on Facebook about Caitlin Jenner, the former Olympic decathlete and reality television star who at 65 has come out as a transgender woman.
The prophets of doom are so afraid of change, so afraid of losing influence or dominance, so afraid that they will not matter if they aren’t afforded unchallenged and unearned privilege, that they are predicting the end of the world, calling for violence and exodus, desperately trying to spread fear and panic in a misguided attempt to delay progress.
If they could stop and examine what they are doing, they would realize that they are condemning love. They are vilifying people who are embracing their truth, who are daring to follow their bliss, and who are celebrating the gifts that Life has given them. The prophets of doom are calling love, hope, joy and courage “evil.” They are condemning something good. And that is exactly what our gospel lesson is about today.
Jesus was a healer. He helped people move from feeling broken or fragmented to feeling whole. He helped people move from feeling useless to feeling as if they had sacred value. It is entirely possible that as people started feeling better about themselves, more connected to God, more optimistic about their lives, that various symptoms did improve, that many people stood taller, had more energy, felt better generally; some may have had spontaneous (or gradual) remission of dis-eases.
In a pre-scientific age when medicine was little more than wishful thinking, psychic healers might have been as effective (or more so) than doctors. But Jesus wasn’t just one more healer; his healing efforts were transgressive.
Jesus not only prayed for the sick, he touched the untouchable, loved the unlovable, affirmed the most marginalized, crossed the lines of class, ethnicity, and religion, noticed the invisible, empowered the powerless, and even gave hope to the mentally ill (referred to as casting out demons).
His healings defied social taboos, and more disturbing for his community, challenged religious tradition. He healed on the Sabbath (believing people were more important than traditions).
Religious traditions, rules, and customs were meant to empower people, not oppress them, or so Jesus believed. So when religion got in the way of people feeling whole, Jesus dared to rethink the religious practices and attitudes. Jesus thought religion was made for us, not us for religion. Religion should help us, not control us; liberate us, not bind us.
So, while resting and reflecting weekly, observing a Sabbath, is a good thing, it is good because it helps us rest our minds and bodies and experience a deeper connection to God. In other words, it is meant to be healing.
So, for Jesus, healing on the Sabbath wasn’t disrespectful, it was honoring the intent of the Sabbath – to help people live more abundantly.
But Jesus’ progressive, liberating, view of religion which had room for new understandings and experiences threatened those in power. They couldn’t dismiss his positive results, so they attributed them to diabolical forces.
People attributing misfortune to ghouls, goblins, ghosts, or demons sounds superstitious to most of us in the 21st century; but in the first century, blaming unexplained phenomena on mischievous spirits wasn’t uncommon. After all, the world was flat, weather was caused by pleasing or displeasing deities, pregnancies were the result of divine blessings rather than biology, and the line between magic and medicine was very thin. So, mental illness, epilepsy, and nightmares could be blamed on those invisible things that go bump in the night.
In a world where misfortune in general, and illness in particular, could be thought to be the result of spooky forces, Jesus’ critics suggested that he liberated people from demons by the very power of demons. His healings, they insisted, were simply his getting his demon friends to remove the troubles they had inflicted in the first place. He’s doing good things, and religious people say his work is actually evil.
They called his compassion evil! In response to such a myopic claim, Jesus tells them that blaspheming against the spirit of goodness is intolerable; in other words, if they can look at something good like compassionate concern or serving others while asking for nothing in return, and see such good actions as evil, then they clearly don’t know what’s good and what’s not. You can’t appreciate what is good if you don’t even know goodness when you see it.
Today, we see people working for justice and equality; that’s a good thing. And yet, there are those who use religion to say that same-gender love is disordered, or worse, wicked. They are so steeped in their bigotry that they have confused it with morality, and they are so stuck in their privilege that they can’t see that same-gender love is love, and regardless of the gender identities of those in a relationship, love genuinely felt and mutually shared is good.
There is a religious element looking at good things, such as love and working for justice and equality, and they are calling those good things evil. Mark’s Jesus says that is intolerable. Mark’s Jesus says when you can look at something good, like love, and call it evil, then you may actually have quite a bit more to learn about love!
But love will win; and when it does, those who feared it will be transformed by it, and then the kin-dom of God will be a bit more present on earth. That’s what makes our work worth the effort. And this is the good news! Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2015
“There is good for me and I ought to have it.”
“There is no mixture of evil with my good.”
Love is divine and It’s blessing me now.