Gratitude Rev Dr Robert Griffin For the few couple years I have had the honor and privilege to preach the last sermon of the year here at Sunshine Cathedral. What a year 2015 it has been! At this point of the game, good or bad, we are all a year older. And, it is all […]
Rev Dr Robert Griffin
For the few couple years I have had the honor and privilege to preach the last sermon of the year here at Sunshine Cathedral. What a year 2015 it has been! At this point of the game, good or bad, we are all a year older. And, it is all good!
I’ve been reflecting on various church events and functions that took place over the past year. I have thought of those who have connected with Sunshine Cathedral for the very first time and have allowed this church to become a place of inspiration in their daily lives. It has also become a place hope.
People connect with us by worshiping on Sunday, or coming to special services or events, or by email, our website, Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, or our printed materials and publications, or by taking classes or attending retreats or group meetings. And let us not forget those who worship in real time but in the virtual reality world called Second Life.
Because we offer so many ways to connect, we literally serve people all over the world.
Our pastoral care team has made a record number of home and hospital visits in 2015. Our Assisted Living congregation has grown dramatically. We are consistently one of the two most visited ministries in Broward County on Facebook. Literally thousands of people each week connect to Sunshine Cathedral via the Internet every week. We meet people where they are and journey with them in their lives.
We feed people with our collections of food, we help to clothe those who needs clothing and we help people find community and make friends.
I think about how lucky we are to have a senior minister who writes so prolifically, who speaks with such passion, who holds up a vision of justice and inclusion, who is a teaching pastor as well as an administrator and a storyteller, and who manages to do all of that with a sense of humor. We have an amazing senior minister.
I think about how lucky we are to have such a committed and hard working minister of connections. She tirelessly works to bring people together in small groups to learn, to grow, to make friends, and to feel loved.
I think about how lucky we are to have someone who decorates our space, designs our lights, and runs our sound every Sunday.
I think about our hard working music ministry that produces such beautiful music.
I think about our deacons who help provide care for our congregation, and our many volunteers who make so much ministry possible.
I think about the thankless job of a minister of administration who keeps the books and pays the bills and does so as a spiritual service.
I think of our amazing Board of Directors. I think of how lucky we are to have the Sunshine Cathedral Foundation to help us with our bricks and mortar needs and long range goals.
I think about how fortunate I am to supervise programming, fundraising, Internet outreach, advertising, and the constantly full church calendar.
I think about our beautiful property and all the ways we use it to serve our community, to bring people together, and to provide space not only for ministries but other progressive organizations working to improve the lives of our human family.
How can you think about Sunshine Cathedral and not think about how blessed we are as a church, and how much potential we still have to make a difference in the world?
And when you think of our blessings, and how we are blessed to be a blessing to others, you can easily resonate with our scripture lesson today that says, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
Of course, there are challenges that come as well as blessings. I call to mind Cathedral members and friends who have made their transitions from this life-experience to the next; there have been many this year.
I think of those who have lost loved ones that were near and dear to their hearts. We remember their gift of life, their touch, their smile, their words of comfort and maybe even words of challenge; our loved ones remain with us in so many ways. Though they may be gone from us in body, we know that a little of their spirit lives on because we keep their memories alive in us.
I think of our Cathedral members and friends who faced other situations this past year, some medical situations. Hospitalizations and surgeries; frightening diagnoses and chronic pain and much more. I also think of how courageous they often were, how they summoned hope, how they trusted that beyond the difficulties there would be new opportunities.
How inspiring to see people rise to the occasion and face the challenges and embrace the power of hope! I see Cathedral members, as our scripture reading encourages us to do, letting “the peace of Christ rule in their hearts.” And for that, I am thankful.
I’ve seen people lose jobs, and find jobs. I’ve seen people make friends, and lose friends. I’ve seen people long for love, and find love, and celebrate long lasting love. Through ups and downs, I’ve seen people support one another and be what a church is meant to be. I’ve seen people, as the scripture said this morning, come together to sing to God with gratitude.
We’re still here, and as we say every week…the future has infinite possibilities!
Beyond the church, I’ve been thinking about events in the world. Climate change, war, terrorism, violence in our streets, racism, public officials playing to our worst fears rather than encouraging us to embrace our highest hopes. But then, there is Sunshine Cathedral that offers a word of hope every time we gather.
Of course, there have been good things in the world, for example, marriage equality in our own country and the the on-going work for LBGT rights around the world. We must always acknowledge and give thanks for the good stuff.
When we think of all the blessings we’ve experienced, and all the challenges we’ve survived, and all the lessons we’ve learned, and all the times we’ve been encouraged, and when we dare to think about all the good things that might still be waiting for us, we find that we can overcome some of our worries, and we can enjoy life more. I love that Sunshine Cathedral is a place that helps us enjoy life more.
As the scripture reading says, “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”
What better way to end 2015 than by putting the past year into perspective, giving thanks for both the good times and for the strength we found in the hard times, and preparing ourselves for an awesome 2016? As we do this, we are learning to be more compassionate, kinder, humble, and patient, while also being bold in our affirmation of our sacred value and the goodness of life.
Now as we begin to bring 2015 to a close, there are a few things worth highlighting:
- January 1, 2015, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle confirmed his marriage ruling – clarifying that clerks in ALL Florida counties are bound by the U.S. Constitution to issue marriage licenses regardless of the sexual orientation of the couple’s. And Sunshine Cathedral started performing same-sex weddings the very minute it was legal…at midnight in front of the courthouse! Love won.
- Then, on February 5th at a hotel on the beach, our Senior Minister, with all our clergy present, performed the mass wedding for over 100 same sex and opposite sex couples for an event that was organized by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Tourism Bureau because love won.
- In March we observed the 50th Anniversary March from Selma to Montgomery AL. It was a reminder of the long road that was literally walked to bring awareness to inequity of voting opportunity. I heard Rep. John Lewis from Georgia who is the only living organizer from the 1963 March on Washington say, “I gave a little blood on this bridge [here] in Selma, Alabama for the right to vote,” He went on to say that “the vote is precious, it is almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a Democratic society. And we’ve got to use it!”
Still, we have more work to do.
I would add that if anyone fails to vote, then the system has not let us down, rather we have let the system down. There are those who would try to take away the hard won rights of women, of people of color, of the LBGT community, and to prevent that from happening we must vote.
- In April, many were shocked when Laverne Cox posed nude for a photo. I love what she said about the photo session, she said that “I’m a black transgender woman. I felt this could be really powerful for the communities that I represent,” she said. “Black women are not often told that we’re beautiful unless we align with certain standards. Trans women certainly are not told we’re beautiful. Seeing a black transgender woman embracing and loving everything about her body might be inspiring for some folks.”
I bet her bold witness made a difference in someone’s life; it may have even saved a life.
Our senior minister and executive staff and our board are united in our determination to continue the work of justice and healing in our world. We are especially dedicated to those who are continuously marginalized. To our transgender sisters and brothers, please know you have a safe place and many friends at Sunshine Cathedral.
Dr King told us, “Injustice ANYWHERE is a threat to justice everywhere.”
- On June 26, US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the majority opinion of the Court making marriage equality the law of the land for the entire United States!
- Each day, each week, and every month of this year has carried news of some magnitude.
o New that has challenged us to ask, ‘who is my neighbor’ as refugees try to cross borders to save their lives.
o News that too often reports that an unarmed and sometimes completely innocent person was killed in cold blood.
o News that reminds us that we have a responsibility to care for those who are not able to care, feed, speak or advocate for themselves.
But worrying about the news of the past year won’t make it better. Being present now and making choices today that will create a better future is our best option.
I believe that Dr. Robert Schuller said it best in his book, Tough Times Never Last But Tough People Do, that “There will never be another now – I’ll make the most of today. There will never be another me – I’ll make the most of myself.”
As you hear these words, I want to encourage you by saying let us focus on living and loving in the here and now. If we give our attention to the present, I believe that our future will unfold in beautiful ways.
Our scripture today tells us to live in the now, with gratitude for what we have, and with hope for what can be, and to support one another with love along the way. That’s the formula for success. That’s what will bless our lives, our church, our community, our nation, our world.
When I think of living with love, hope, and gratitude, especially on this 3rd day of Christmastide and last Sunday of the year, I am reminded of the words of Howard Thurman:
“When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.”
That’s my exhortation to you Sunshine Cathedral, to do the work of Christmas all year long, and as we do, we can know that 2016 will be a truly blessed year. And for that, I am grateful.
I am blessed. And I am filled with gratitude.
2015 be at peace. 2016 I welcome with anticipation
And so it is. Amen.