Three Steps to a Miracle

On April 16, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Three Steps to a Miracle Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Matthew 28 (Easter 2017) Resurrection is a recurring theme in the bible. Throughout scripture, we see people who are dead, who feel dead, or who are thought to be dead experience life again, or their loved ones experience them beyond their death. Elijah is said to […]

Three Steps to a Miracle
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Matthew 28 (Easter 2017)

Resurrection is a recurring theme in the bible. Throughout scripture, we see people who are dead, who feel dead, or who are thought to be dead experience life again, or their loved ones experience them beyond their death.

Elijah is said to raise a widow’s dead son back to life, and Elijah’s disciple, Elisha, later does the same thing. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus raises widow’s dead back to life.

A dead body is tossed into Elisha’s tomb and when the body touches Elisha’s bones, it comes back to life.
Ezekiel sees his whole community as being lifeless, but he has a vision of it being renewed, brought back to thriving life.

Jesus raises Jairus’ dead daughter back to life, and in another story, he raises Lazarus as well.

Eutychus in the book of Acts falls out a window and breaks his neck, but is resurrected.

In Matthew 27 a whole bunch of people are resurrected and just start walking around.

And, most famously, Jesus is resurrected in all four gospels. We tend to focus on the stories of Jesus’ resurrection, but it happened several times before Jesus in our sacred stories, and a few times after. The concept of resurrection isn’t unique to Jesus, but it does seem to be a key element in the faith tradition that Jesus both inherited and shared.

Resurrection is the greatest miracle in our scriptures and in our lives; but before I say more about that I want to define what I mean by resurrection and what I mean by miracle.

1. A Miracle is a change of perception, particularly a change that moves us away from fear. Every time we embrace hope, every time we summon courage, every time we experience gratitude, every time we are able to forgive, every time we share love…our lives are altered for the better. The change of perception that moves us away from fear is a miracle.

2. Resurrection is the experience of transformation that reminds us that life can be renewed, dignity can be restored, joy can be experienced in new and life-giving ways.

Whenever we see miracles in scripture, and for that matter, whenever we see the supreme miracle of resurrection, we see fear being dispelled and renewal being experienced. No wonder these symbols were so important to our ancestors and remain important to us.

Now, if miracles represent liberation from fear, and resurrection symbolizes renewal in our own lives, what can we do to experience miracles for ourselves, maybe even the miracle of resurrection? Today’s gospel reading from Matthew gives us a three step pattern that we can follow, or we could say, three steps to a miracle.

A couple of Marys (you know the type) are the ones in this story to experience the miracle of Resurrection. They discover that Jesus isn’t really dead…but, we might have guessed that.
We know that life is energy and energy can’t be destroyed, it only changes form. We know that our loved ones live on in echoes of their actions and in the loving memories we hold of them.
We trust that we all live forever in the heart of God.

So, Jesus not being dead isn’t a real shocker…the surprise is how people experienced him (and experience him still) beyond his death. It is one thing to know life is continuous; it is another to be blessed by a life that seems to have been taken from us.
Mary and Mary, somehow, experience the living Christ, that was their miracle of overcoming fear…in fact, the angel and Jesus both tell them to not be afraid…to not give in to fear during a terrifying time is a great miracle indeed! And how did they get to this resurrection miracle?

1. They looked for it. Other gospel stories show women going to the tomb to embalm a body, but Matthew’s Marys have no spices, no linens, no incense. They’re not there to embalm. They just go to the tomb, looking, but for what? Maybe they don’t even know, but they do know that the tragedies they’ve witnessed and endured cannot be the end of the story. They know they have reason to keep looking.

When we pray, when we ask questions, when we peruse the scriptures, we are looking for an experience of the Sacred. We may not know what it will look like, but we know it’s worth looking for and like Matthew’s Marys, we search. Jesus said, “seek and you will find.”
Like the Marys, if we will seek out an experience of the Sacred, we are very likely to find it.

2. It’s one thing to look for something, but we might not make much headway if we don’t listen while we look. Others have probably been looking too, and they may have discovered some things along the way. On our search there are divine messages offered to us, but we won’t benefit from them if we don’t receive them. The angel tells the Marys to not give in to their fears. The angel tells them to talk to the other disciples, share their experience. The angel tells them to keep moving forward – don’t give up the search for the Sacred. Luckily, they took the wise counsel and benefited from it.

As they followed the counsel to go share their story with other seekers, (which is what the church is…a community of seekers sharing our hopes, our weaknesses, our discoveries, and our resources so that together we can be more than we would be alone), as they continued to follow the advice of the angel…they experienced the Resurrected Christ, the symbol of renewed life. The faithful search for the sacred will give us at least moments of profound renewal. They followed the advice they were willing to hear.

3. Mary and Mary looked and listened, which means they learned and then they put their learning into action. They labored. The story says they RAN…that’s exertion, that’s purpose, that’s determination, that’s focus, that’s energy…they ran to share the hope they had discovered and the joy they had experienced. They labored to make sure others could have miracles, particularly the miracle of resurrection. It wasn’t just about them…they needed to share.

Mary and Mary never say a word in this story. They don’t have to. St. Francis of Assisi supposedly said, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”

And today, we see the Marys, looking for miracles, listening to wisdom, laboring to share hope and joy, we see them looking, listening, learning, loving, laboring…but they never say a word. God talk is fine; God action is better.

Do you need to overcome some fear in your life, that is, do you need a miracle?
Would you like to experience dramatic renewal, a resurrection in your life?

Try the Marys’ 3 point plan. Look for miracles, listen for guidance, and lovingly labor to achieve and share your miracle. And like the Marys, that can best be done in blessed community.

As the community of Christ, let us look, listen, and lovingly labor for miracles…I believe they are at hand. And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2017

I give thanks for Resurrection Power.
By it I am continually renewed.
Alleluia!
Amen.

Face Everything And Rise

On August 10, 2014, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Face Everything And Rise Rev Dr Durrell Watkins The question to Elijah is, “What are you doing?” But Elijah isn’t really doing anything. He’s in a cave/closet, hiding. He’s afraid that mean-spirited people are out to get him. They have hurt others and may wish to hurt him. And just because he’s feeling a little […]

Face Everything And Rise
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins

The question to Elijah is, “What are you doing?”
But Elijah isn’t really doing anything. He’s in a cave/closet, hiding. He’s afraid that mean-spirited people
are out to get him. They have hurt others and may wish to hurt him.
And just because he’s feeling a little paranoid doesn’t mean that he’s wrong. There are some scary folks out there. We have a job to do anyway..

But, he’s so afraid that his life will be threatened by his enemies that he’s not really living as it is. He’s hiding, stuck, frozen with fear. What are you doing?

Nothing productive. Nothing empowering. Nothing healing.
Elijah’s imprisoned by his own fear, and added to the fear is the shame of letting the fear have complete power over him.
What are you doing? Not enough. Not what I am capable of doing; not what I’m called to be and do.

After the question “What are you doing?” and the answer, “hiding in this closeted, fear based experience,” Elijah is then challenged to “go out and stand on the mountain!” Step out of the inaction. Feel the fear but take action anyway.

F.E.A.R. can mean forget everything and run or face everything and rise…Elijah started with the former, but his sense of purpose is calling him now to choose the latter…to summon the wherewithal to face everything and rise.

And how can he face his fears and take positive action? Stand on the mountain. In ancient literature, a mountain is the home of the gods, it represents the divine presence. When we remember that we are part of, within, and made from an omnipresent Reality, we find hope and courage and can do what we previously thought we could not do. Go out and stand on the mountain!

Now remember, he is on the mountain. Even the cave is in the mountain. He looks for the divine presence, but he is in the midst of that presence, he is part of it, he is in and of and like and part of God. He is an incarnation of God (as we all are).
And when he looks beyond his own location, beyond his own heart, he doesn’t find God.

He looks for God in an earthquake, in fire, and in a storm-wind, but he doesn’t find God beyond himself. He’s confusing the symbols for what they symbolize. He’s on the mountain. He’s in God’s presence. Why look beyond wherever he is.
“There’s not a spot where God is not.”

The only way to not find God is to overlook God’s immanence, God’s omnipresence. As James Dillet Freeman wrote in his poem (which is on the moon as well as being part of the Sunshine Cathedral liturgy), “Wherever I am, God is!”

When he stops looking “up” there or “out” there, in texts and sacraments and rituals, in gurus and golden calves, when he becomes still he hears the sound of Silence, and THAT is the divine Voice.

Rather than looking beyond right where he is (as the person he is), he simply needs to become quiet and recognize the divine presence and listen to its divine directive in the sacred silence.

Divine Immanence/Omnipresence is spoken of throughout the ages in the various religious and philosophical systems of the world.

Sikhism:
“Ever is God present with you…recognize God within yourself.”

Greek paganism:
“It is in God that we live and move and have our being.” (Epimenides)

Confucianism:
“Is Goodness so far away? If we really wanted Goodness, we should find that it was at our very side.” (Confucius)

Hinduism:
And as if being offered as a commentary on today’s text…“Brahman is seen here, dwelling in the CAVE of the heart of conscious beings.” (Upanishads)

After communion with the divine Presence, Union With the Presence and becoming aware of its message to his heart, Elijah feels called and empowered to move out further into life. He is to return to Damascus and get to work. And he might not see the seeds he plants bearing fruit in the near future. He is to anoint two kings and a prophet and they may all wind up killing each other, but as a result of Elijah being faithful to his noble cause, listening to his intuition and finding hope and courage to do his prophetic work, there will be 7000 people who are not enamored of Baal who will thrive.

Baal is a false image of the divine (which, according to the Decalogue, is ANY image of the divine…the presence that enfolds us, fills us, flows through us, expresses as us, is in all life, is the ground of all being cannot be adequately represented by any one teacher, prophet, scroll, ritual, or icon). Those who are able to move beyond traditions and dogma, who can simply commune with the ultimate, omnipresent reality of perfect, all-embracing, divine Love will have a richer, more fulfilling experience of the All-in-all (7 is a number of perfection, and 7000 is perfection multiplied by a thousand…unimaginable peace and joy…the 7000 means the best possible experience).

Now, when we pause to listen to the still, small voice that is the voice of God, what happens? We hear other voices as well, right? How do we discern what is the true Inner Voice of Wisdom and what is just the background of noise of KRAP radio? And how do we silence the destructive voices once we’ve identified them for the mental goblins they are?

That’s when spoken prayer comes into play. We sit in the Silence to communion with the spirit of life, the presence of love, the ground of being. And when nefarious voices of doubt and dread and defeat pop up, we argue with them. That’s what spoken prayer is. We aren’t telling God anything! What is it that you suppose an omnipresent Reality doesn’t know? We don’t need to persuade God or inform God or educate God…we need to remind ourselves that right where we are, God is, and if God is where we are, then all Good is within our reach. We deserve hope and health and love and laughter and peace and plenty and God knows that more than we do!

No, our words of prayer aren’t to move God, they are to move us out of the way so we can experience more of what God is…life, love, liberty, hope, beauty, peace, joy, abundance.

So in the silent times when the diabolical voice of a bruised ego suggests we are worthless or powerless or beyond the reach of divine love we treat those wayward feelings with spoken prayer. I want us to start thinking of prayer as treatments, like a massage or a chiropractic adjustment or a colonic…something real and definite that is meant to restore balance and perfection.

We treat doubt and despair by denying that they have any power over us and then by affirming what is ours by right of consciousness, what is ours simply because we exist, and if exist at all then we exist in and as part of God.

And so we pray:
There is one omnipresent power; it is the power of love.
Wherever I am, it is; and whatever it is, I am.
Therefore there is nothing to prevent me from experiencing more of God and God’s goodness
and so it is in this very moment that I lay claim to all that is mine to have,
to enjoy,
and to share.
I choose to be happy,
courageous,
optimistic,
and I allow myself to know myself as a child of God
continuously blessed by God.
Alleluia!
and Amen.

Use prayer to treat those nasty, lying voices that were programmed into you in earlier days. Use prayer to tape over the tapes, so that one day when you enter into the Silence only the good news is what bubbles up in your spirit and then you will hear the voice of divine love saying, “do not be afraid. Rise up. Move forward. Try and try again. Believe in yourself. And know that everything good is possible for you! And PS, you deserve it; you deserve the very best.”

Elijah hid in the cave of his heart, listening to the voice of fear, but moved through that experience, he heard the calm, quiet, gentle voice of spirit telling him to be lifted up and to get back to doing good work in the world, whether he ever saw the results or not. And he was finally healed of his fears, and he was able to live in his sacred power once again.

So, to summarize the story, we can feel overwhelmed, afraid, stuck, uncertain, and we may want to just hide and hope things will fix themselves. But in that time of hiding, resting, healing, we are offered the chance to reconnect to the power within us, the omnipresence that we are part of and one with, just as a wave is completely one with the larger ocean in which it exists.

Once we remember our unity with God, then we can Face Everything And Rise, and we are able to get back to doing our sacred work. We may not see the results of that work right away, but we can trust that we are contributing to something that will make a difference. When we act with courage and integrity, we are contributing to wholeness, to the 7000 that will one day stand strong.

A simpler summary was offered by Dorothy Day, “No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There’s too much work to do.” And thank God, we are the ones to do it. And this is the good news. Amen.
© 2014 Durrell Watkins
There is one Power.
It is my Life and I cannot be separated from It.
When fear approaches I will Face Everything And Rise!
And I will accept the blessings Life has for me.
Alleluia! Amen.

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