The Gospel Mandate Rev Dr Durrell Watkins Just weeks after 49 people (mostly gay, mostly Latinx) were killed in a mass shooting in Orlando, Philando Castile and Atlon Sterling were brutally and senselessly slain last week in Louisiana and Minnesota. Then during a peaceful protest in Dallas, a sniper opened fire in the crowd, and […]
The Gospel Mandate
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Just weeks after 49 people (mostly gay, mostly Latinx) were killed in a mass shooting in Orlando,
Philando Castile and Atlon Sterling were brutally and senselessly slain last week in Louisiana and Minnesota.
Then during a peaceful protest in Dallas, a sniper opened fire in the crowd, and killed 5 police officers. They were protecting peaceful protestors. They, too, were innocent victims.
The barrage of violence in our country is overwhelming, and our hearts are breaking. For those who have been taken from community, family, and friends this week, let us observe a moment of silence…
Let light perpetual shine upon them. Amen.
Jesus tells the religious faithful today that the most important teaching of their faith is “love your neighbor” and the gospel call is to see all people as our neighbor, and caring about all people means caring particularly for those most in need at the time.
1998 James Byrd, Jr. – dragged to death in Jasper, TX.
African American man killed by white supremacists.
Was our response the response of Jesus?
Last year, during a bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, 9 African Americans, including the pastor, were killed by a white man they had welcome into their circle of study and prayer.
Was our response the response of Jesus?
Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were killed last week…but by the time of their shootings, we had almost become desensitized to such news.
James Byrd, worshipers in Charleston, a man in New York, a man in Baltimore, a child in Ohio…the news of people of color being unnecessarily and brutally slain is so frequent we sometimes fail to respond with shock, horror, and disgust.
God have mercy on us.
We have a prophetic word from the gospel of Luke today…when people are hurting, the godly response is to offer compassion.
For social and religious reasons, people walked by a hurting man in the gospel lesson today, but the Samaritan is the one who simply responded to need. There was pain, and kindness was the most human response…too many people had learned to ignore their most human impulses, but the Samaritan shows us that we are most divine when we allow ourselves to be more fully human.
I’m tired of gay people being told their very existence is a sin.
I’m tired of transgender people being objectified and used for political gain.
I’m tired of men regulating women’s bodies.
I’m tired of immigrants being treated as if they are crashing an exclusive party when they come to the US to improve and sometimes even save their lives.
I’m tired of Muslims being demonized.
And I am tired of African American people being publicly executed with virtually no consequences to the killers.
And you know what else? I am tired of Christianity being reduced to what people say they believe. The religious guy wanted to know how he could benefit from religion…how can I benefit forever, he asks Jesus. And Jesus responds by telling him to help people in need. You’re worried about heaven in the next life – why aren’t you concerned about those who are going through hell in this life?
Christianity is about living the gospel, about manifesting the realm of God in this world, about sharing hope and compassion and working for justice for all, as Jesus did.
If we are not going to take a stand for peace, our beliefs are irrelevant.
If we are not going to participate in changing structures that leave people poor our beliefs are irrelevant.
If we are not going to affirm the sacred value of all people, our beliefs are irrelevant.
If we are not going to oppose irrational fear and lethal hatred, our beliefs are irrelevant.
The gospel message today is painfully clear and remarkably simple:
To love God is to love people, and to love people is to recognize the inherent dignity and sacred value of all people. And if we see the dignity of people who have been marginalized, we will do what we can to lift them up.
The priest and the Levite that passed the wounded person in Jesus’ story had strong beliefs, but that didn’t cure hatred or heal the wounded. Being super religious didn’t make them more human, and what the suffering person needed most was human compassion.
It was the despised Samaritan, the queer, the transgender person, the immigrant, the Muslim, the African American with a broken tail light, who most demonstrated the love of God.
And Jesus says, “don’t be like the people who use religion as an excuse to hate others or ignore suffering; be like the Samaritan. Be a good neighbor.”
I’m going to declare something as clearly and emphatically as I know how to do right now.
I want you to know that Sunshine Cathedral is a spiritual community dedicated to following the example of Jesus. You may be Christian, Catholic or Protestant, you may be Muslim, Jewish, Agnostic, Buddhist, Wiccan, or something else, and we certainly value and celebrate pluralism here, but whatever your personal philosophy, whatever your religious opinions, our shared covenant in this body is to embrace the Good News of God’s all-inclusive and unconditional love. The message of God’s all inclusive and unconditional love, by the way, is the gospel of Jesus, and those who embrace that gospel message have mandate to then be channels through which divine love flows.
I am a minister of the gospel of Jesus, and as such it would be an absolute sin for me to fail to say today, Black Lives Matter.
All lives have sacred value, which is why we must pay special attention to the lives whose dignity are being assaulted in the moment.
That is why we have responded to the odious bathroom bills that target transgender people, that is why we fought for marriage equality, that is why grieved for Orlando, that is why I have said without apology that I stand with Planned Parenthood, that is why we confront and condemn verbal attacks against the Muslim community and why we declare unequivocally that immigrants are the children of God and must be welcome with open arms, and it is why we grieve for the police officers senselessly slain in Dallas.
But today, we must recognize that the lives that are frequently under attack, the lives frequently denied justice, the bodies on the road needing our attention are black bodies.
As followers of Jesus, we must stand up and let our voices be heard in holy outrage.
Are you tired of the violence, and are you ready to insist the human compassion mandated by the gospel become the model of our faith and our lives? If so say YES…
Let people hear you today. Cry out for the sake of the gospel. In the name of Jesus, we call for an increase of human compassion in our world. Amen.
I love God.
I love my neighbors.
All people are my neighbors.
We are all children of god.
May we all be blessed.