Renewal

On February 19, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Ash Wednesday

On February 14, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Ash Wednesday, Feb 14 – Affirmation Readings: F. Bernadette Turner wrote: “Affirmation-prayers can be successfully used in building a rich consciousness. They help you vitalize your words and feelings in communicating with Cosmic Center because they are strong declarations of your beliefs. Affirmation prayers have a tonic quality. These prayers as mantras add a variation […]

Ash Wednesday, Feb 14 – Affirmation

Readings:
F. Bernadette Turner wrote: “Affirmation-prayers can be successfully used in building a rich consciousness. They help you vitalize your words and feelings in communicating with Cosmic Center because they are strong declarations of your beliefs. Affirmation prayers have a tonic quality. These prayers as mantras add a variation to your prayer-method. Affirmation prayers are an investment, enriching your consciousness and making life less forbidding in disquieting times.”

We read in the Psalter (Psalm 23, NKJV): The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. [God] makes me to lie down in green pastures [and] leads me beside the still waters. [God] restores my soul; [God] leads me in the paths of righteousness… Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

Prayer after readings: Good Shepherd, we trust you to lead us, guide us, and provide for us. With you we find serenity, courage, and hope. You help us see and seize the possibilities in life. We continue to move forward assured by your constant care. Amen.

SERMON
23rd psalm is the most famous of all affirmative prayers.
In it the psalmist affirms:
God takes care of me, my needs are met.
I am entitled to inner peace.
God restores me and leads me, and helps me overcome my fears.
God comforts me and celebrates me.
There is goodness and kindness available to me every day, and there is no time that I shall not be in God’s loving presence.

The psalm is a series of affirmative statements reminding the one praying of God’s goodness, God’s faithfulness, and of the wonderful possibilities that exist for all of us.

It’s a good prayer to kick off Lent. I want us to think of Lent as a time of possibilities, and a time when we can affirm possibilities. Lent can be a time of healing, a time of spiritual growth, a time of recommitting to the spiritual path, a time of giving more of ourselves to life and of being willing to receive more blessings from life. I call us today to practice an Affirmative Lent.

In a few moments we’ll receive ashes. Why?

Because ashes are an affirmation; but what do they affirm?

1. Ashes affirm our unity with all life.

All living things have a life cycle and all life forms expire eventually.
Our shared frailty is a call to compassion, a reminder to love ourselves and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are all fragile, and we all deserve and need comfort and encouragement.
Remembering our shared lot calls us to care for one another.
Ashes remind us that we are all one.

2. If ashes affirm our shared frailty they also remind us of our resilience.

It is from the ashes of destruction that the phoenix rises to new life.
It is from the ashes of ruin that structures and communities are rebuilt.

Abraham once said that he was but dust and ash, and we know today that while we are from dust, we also return to dust. Our bodies return to the elemental, physical source and our spirits return to the universal, everlasting, spiritual source. The dust of the ground, the dust of the air, the star dust of the cosmos…dust is ubiquitous and enduring…that’s what we are.

We are part and parcel of a divine life that never ends.
Our forms change and eventually return to the earth, but the life expressing through these forms is eternal, without beginning or end.
That is something to celebrate, and affirming this cause for celebration can give us strength, courage, and hope.

3. Finally, ashes affirm that change is possible.

John the baptizer preached repentance. He said, “repent, for the divine kin-dom is near.” Repentance is change: to change a habit, to change one’s way of thinking, to change a behavior, to turn from one course of action and embrace a new one, to turn from an unhelpful attitude and embrace a new thought. The divine kin-dom is near, is at hand, in our hands, and if we aren’t acting as if such beauty is within us, we can change, we can start demonstrating the goodness that is our Truth.

The prophet Isaiah talked about positive change. He asked people to believe that they could change from sorrow to joy, from despair to hope, from pain to peace.

The prophet wrote that God would provide for the bereaved, giving them crowns in place of ashes, joy in place of grief, praise in place of discouragement, and that they would be strong as oaks.

Ashes represent repentance, but that just means positive change, and that is always possible. Our sadness can be changed into happiness, our fear can be changed into hope, our regret can be changed into gratitude, our pain can be changed into wisdom.

Compassion. Resilience. Positive change.
Those are what we can see, seize, and share in an affirmative Lent. I affirm those possibilities for us, and this is the good news. Amen.

A Miracle Mindset

On February 12, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

A Miracle Mindset Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Feb. 11, 2018 Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. I take the bible seriously, which means, I cannot take it literally. To […]

A Miracle Mindset
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Feb. 11, 2018

Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

I take the bible seriously, which means, I cannot take it literally.

To literalize the bible’s myths and metaphors and allegories is to cheapen and limit religion.
To use the bible to argue against science, to deny the functions of biology, to demonize same-gender loving people, to justify warfare or child abuse, to silence women or to promote hatred of people who hold other sacred books dear is to make the bible a weapon in the hands of bullies which denies the life-giving power of the sacred texts.

The bible is filled with truth…many more truths than facts. To use the bible as a fact checking source will leave us with a deplorably immature faith.

But what if the bible stories are the product of divinely inspired imaginations and are meant to fan the flames of our own imaginations?

What if the word of God is found in the “what ifs” more than in the slinging of verses as if they were fiery darts and arrows?

Now, let me be clear…I believe in miracles.

“I believe in miracles I’ve seen a soul set free. Miraculous the change in one who has found liberty. I’ve seen the lily push its way up through the stubborn sod. O I believe in miracles for I believe in God.”

But I don’t understand miracles to be flashy tricks that happened long ago but can’t be repeated. No, I believe the miracle stories in scripture are meant to help us broaden our perspective so that we can see more possibilities in our own lives.

2 things influenced my looking at sacred scripture through the lens of allegory.

The first was being a gender non-conforming gay sissy boy growing up in the rural bible belt. I studied the bible hard looking for loopholes early on. I was told the bible was the reason the world felt entitled to be mean to me. I was told the bible was the proof that God didn’t have much use for me. If the bible was the dragon that was terrorizing me, then I would fight that dragon tooth and nail, fang and claw. So, I started with the clobber passages, and found hope and healing and liberation as I read and re-read them. They didn’t say to me what people told me they said. And it occurred to me, those clobber passages couldn’t be the only ones to be misunderstood and misused. So, homophobia drove me to the bible, and in the process, I fell in love with the bible.

The second thing that caused me to rethink what the bible said and meant was today’s gospel story. Homophobia drove me to the bible in the 80s, but an encounter with a lovely woman in the 90s made me go even deeper.

Her son was born blind. He was an adult by this time and they were very close, but every time this gospel passage was read or preached on in church it hurt her. Her son’s life was happy and full, but not easy. And she couldn’t understand why God would give this guy in today’s story his vision and no such magic was ever offered to her son. And me, a ministry student in my 20s, is who she turned to for understanding. I wasn’t at all sure that she had made a wise choice!

But what I heard myself telling her was that I could not verify that the event in the story even occurred. I told her that somebody wrote that story, and that person had an agenda and was trying to communicate the agenda to a particular group or community.
Maybe he thought the enforcers of religious rules were myopic, shortsighted, didn’t see the bigger picture.
Maybe he thought the government was not seeing people’s needs or the intrinsic value of every individual.
Maybe he thought people in his own community weren’t seeing their potential or their responsibilities clearly enough.
Maybe vision in the story was a symbol, and the healing wasn’t for an individual, but was something groups of people should seek to experience. Maybe the writer was trying to open eyes and hearts and minds of his audience.

After our brief chat, this dear lady told me that for the first time, talking about that scripture passage didn’t leave her feeling worse. Saving the bible from literalism saved that woman from continuing heartache that had plagued her for decades. Trying make the story factual made the woman miserable; letting it be true without needing it to be factual helped the woman find much needed and deserved relief.

Now, let’s be clear: when things are tough, I summon hope and I ride it until the wheels fall off. I will hope when hope seems ridiculous. And, I know from experience that optimism and positive thinking can make a world of difference.

And when I think that I can at this moment talk to my friend in Auckland where it’s tomorrow and its summer, when I think of organ transplants, people living healthy lives with HIV and diabetes and that Hep C is now curable, that humans have been in outer space…when I consider the Internet, television, microwave ovens, laser surgery, marriage equality in dozens of countries…I am awed.

Intelligence, technology, science, imagination have all worked together to create a world that our ancestors could only dream about. Our everyday reality overshadows most of the miracle stories of antiquity. So, why not hope? Things can get better.

But hope and progress, as wonderful as they are, are not miracles. Miracles are changes in perception and they can happen in an instant. That conversation about the gospel story so many years ago was a miracle moment…no one heard a voice from a flaming bush or walked through a wall or fed a crowd with a sack lunch, but someone changed how she saw God and the bible and the healing stories therein…she received vision she didn’t have before. That was a miracle.

“I believe in miracles I’ve seen a soul set free. Miraculous the change in one who has found liberty. I’ve seen the lily push its way up through the stubborn sod. O I believe in miracles for I believe in God.”

When we overcome fear and can see with the vision of love, what we see is a miracle.
When we see that we are part and parcel of God, that is a miracle.
When we see that there’s not a spot where God is not, that is a miracle.
When we see that we can go to peace instead of to pieces, that’s a miracle.
When we see ourselves as utterly lovable, that’s a miracle.
When we see that we can forgive and release past hurts and those who participated in them, that’s a miracle.
When we look out at smoldering rubble and dare to say, “tomorrow may be better,” that’s a miracle.
When we see the bible as a tool of liberation rather than a weapon of oppression, that’s a miracle.
When we see God as everlasting, all-inclusive, unconditional love, that’s a miracle.

When we develop a miracle mindset, miracles can happen daily. They can be amazing, life changing, and perfectly natural. This is the good news. Amen.

I believe in miracles.
I see and seize miraculous possibilities now.
Alleluia!
Amen.

Thirsting for God

On February 4, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Thirsting for God Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Feb. 4, 2018 Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. Jesus is traveling in today’s gospel lesson, and his journey takes him through […]

Thirsting for God
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Feb. 4, 2018

Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

Jesus is traveling in today’s gospel lesson, and his journey takes him through Samaria. Jesus finds himself alone in Sychar. His disciples have all gone into town to shop for food, and he is alone in a region whose people don’t particularly trust Jewish folk, and, Jewish folk often don’t think highly of Samaritans. So, basically, Jesus is alone in potentially hostile territory. And he’s thirsty.

I think it’s important that we see this vulnerable moment in Jesus’ life. He’s alone, surrounded by people who may dislike him on sight, and he’s thirsty. This is a scene that could turn pretty ugly without much provocation.

Jesus is the stranger.
Jesus is the foreigner.
Jesus is the uninvited.
Jesus is the undocumented.

Jesus, tired and thirsty and alone, cops a squat on the edge of a famous well, on a plot of ground that that legend says Jacob gave to his son Joseph. He’s sitting at the well, but he doesn’t have a jar or bucket to lower into the well.

Along comes a woman, a Samaritan woman (it is, after all, Samaria). You know what? We aren’t going to spend the next 14 minutes calling this person “the Samaritan woman”. She had a name. We don’t know what it is, but to honor her I am going to lend her one. Since we encounter her at Jacob’s well, let’s call her Jacoba.

Jesus, rather abruptly, says to Jacoba, “Give me some water.” Surely the word “please” simply got lost in the translation.

But actually, Jesus is doing something rather subversive. He, a man, is talking to a woman. He, a possibly unwelcome traveler, approaches one of the locals. He, a member of the Jewish faith and ethnicity engages a member of the Samaritan faith and ethnicity. There were socially constructed walls of fear and prejudice that were meant to keep these people apart, and Jesus tears down those walls!

“Give me some water” is one of the most radical statements in the Bible, because it places Samaritan and Jew, man and woman, religious and political adversaries on the same, human level. “Give me some water” are the magic words that rebukes and destroys walls of separation.

Jesus does something else with those words: he admits need. He’s sitting at the edge of a well…but Jacoba is the one with a bucket. He addresses her straight away by saying, “I need help and I recognize that you are someone who can help me.” He affirms her dignity, her agency, her power to help him if she is willing. He basically places himself at her mercy.

Jacoba’s a little shocked. She says, “You know…most Jews and Samaritans wouldn’t share a drinking vessel.” But Jesus won’t let that wall stand. Jesus from John chapter 4 rebukes the idea of segregated water fountains and lunch counters, of walls meant to keep people apart and trapped in fear and hatred.

And, while Jesus needs the water that Jacoba can draw with her bucket, he wants to give her something as well. He’s already given her the gift of acknowledgment and of trusting her with his vulnerability. But he gives her something else…he affirms her sacred value. She mentions her husband and he, maybe because he’s been listening to the gossip as people walked past him treating him as if he were invisible, or maybe because the writer thought that would be a dramatic bit to drop in, Jesus just knowing something about this stranger, but Jesus tells her, “you’ve had a few husbands and this one isn’t really your husband.”

Maybe she’s been abandoned by 5 cads, or maybe she has been tragically widowed 5 times. Jesus knows she’s a rough time, and he her past does not define her. She is a child of God, made in the image of God, and she is forever held in the love that God is. Period. And he shows her that with their visit at the well.

Jacoba goes to tell her village about her encounter and she persuades a lot of folk to come see Jesus, making her an evangelist, a preacher, a disciple. A woman…a Samaritan woman…the Disciple Jacoba.

Jesus and Jacoba, because they really are partners in this story, tear down the walls religious bigotry, ethnic prejudice, regional animosity, and assumptions about gender roles.

Jacoba reminds Jesus that his people like to worship in the city, while hers like the mountain. How are they going to keep this love fest going when they can’t even agree on where to best encounter God? And Jesus answers, ”the time is coming, and in fact it is already here, when people won’t limit God to mountains or cities, but they will realize that God is omnipresent life, God is spirit, and is best worshiped in spirit and in truth”…which is what Jesus and Jacoba have been doing. How?

By giving. They gave hope. They gave respect. They gave kindness. They gave compassion. They gave encouragement. They gave time. They gave a listening ear. They gave up their preconceived judgements and assumptions. They gave each other the benefit of the doubt. That’s how to worship in spirit and truth.

Jesus tells Jacoba, “GIVE me water.”
He tells her that she is unaware of a GIFT that God has given.
She reminds Jesus that Jacob GAVE the well.
Jesus tells her that God, as love, as power, as presence, as spirit is like a stream that is forever gushing, that is, forever GIVING.
Jacoba says, “GIVE me some of that spirit water.”
And when she runs to tell her neighbors about this amazing encourager, Jesus, she leaves her bucket behind for him…she GIVES him the means to quench his thirst.

Lives were changed because Jesus and Jacoba gave each other a chance, and then continued to give from their hearts to one another.

Jacoba was thirsting for an awareness that she was God’s miracle and not God’s mistake. Jesus quenched that thirst by affirming her and seeing her as the child of God that she was. We’re all thirsting for God, and Spirit is an eternal gushing stream of love that we can access at any time. We’re here, like Jesus in Samaria, to help people believe that the spirit stream is for them, is part of them, and it will never run dry.

Being generous. Being compassionate. Tearing down walls. That’s how we worship in spirit and in truth. That’s how we relieve those who are thirsting for God. And this is the good news. Amen.

My soul thirsts for the living God.
Gushing streams of God’s goodness satisfies my thirst.
Thank you, God.
Amen.

New Life

On January 28, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

New Life Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Jan 28, 2018 Jn 3.1-8, 19-21 Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. At 19 I begged and beseeched God to strike me straight. I […]

New Life
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Jan 28, 2018
Jn 3.1-8, 19-21

Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

At 19 I begged and beseeched God to strike me straight. I was told that same-gender love and attraction were sinful.

I didn’t know that the American Psychiatric Association had maintained since 1973 that same-gender love and attraction was not disordered, not pathological, nor did I know that contemporary biblical and theological scholarship was debunking religiously motivated prejudices against LGBTQ people. I just knew that most of the people that I knew would have thought something was wrong with me if they knew who I really was.

So I prayed for God to heal me of my sinful nature. God, however, did not strike me straight. Instead, I heard a message deep within me…not an audible voice but a clear message nevertheless, and the message was simply and powerfully: Not even God can heal what is not sick.

I was renewed, reborn, revived, relieved…I didn’t become someone else (I was who I was meant to be!), but I embraced a new understanding of who I am. I was reborn as someone who trusted my sacred value and who could learn to trust that God is love. I was reborn as someone who knew that I was God’s miracle and not God’s mistake, I was part of a divine plan that was diverse and beautiful and wonderful. I came to understand that just as I am, I am (as the psalmist affirmed) awesomely and wonderfully made.

Let’s think back to the creation myth in Genesis chapter 1:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

In the beginning, God. Let’s for a moment pretend that time is linear and that there was a literal beginning. If God is all there is (in the beginning), then with what and from what does God create? God’s Self! What else is there “in the beginning?” God is the maker and the plan and the stuff from which creation is made. The maker, the plan, and the stuff…how’s that for a trinity?!

So everything that is, is God’s creation, an extension of God. Everything that lives is animated with God’s life (breath, energy, spirit). Every creature is part of God’s heart. We are each God’s child.

There’s not a spot where God is not because there’s nothing that doesn’t come from God, that isn’t made from God-stuff. And so it is that it is in God that we live and move and have our being.

So in the beginning, God is all…and God is the same yesterday, today, and forever…so God is still all…omnipresent, everywhere fully present, which means all that is, is in and part of God. We can’t be lost from an omnipresent God; we can’t be rejected by a God that is Love.

To be reborn is to wake up to the truth of our union with God. To be reborn, or born from above, or born of spirit is to realize who we really are…God’s begotten.

The reading this morning skipped a couple of verses that have been used problematically, but in the context of the larger passage they are very reassuring. Verses 16 and 17, well known by those who memorize bible verses, say in the King James rendering, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”

Forgive the patriarchal language, but that is how many of us learned it.

That passage falls in the middle of this larger text about following the light and being born of spirit. It’s all metaphorical and philosophical and symbolic and maybe confusing. It’s little wonder that people have misunderstood it. The verse is used to suggest that those of us who hold certain opinions or understandings are heaven bound, and everyone else is in deep, everlasting doo-doo. But how could that ever be good news…that would be just one more unjust system of ins and outs, haves and have nots, accepted and rejected. That can’t be God. Religion has to be better than mere fire insurance!

What most of us were never told is that the word translated as “world” in that passage is actually kosmos. It means the entire world, the earth and beyond, all who exist anywhere in any form. For God so loved the cosmos! That God gave God’s best, God’s heart, God’s all. God so loved everything that God gave everything.

The only begotten child isn’t just one person in history, it’s every person. God gives life so that everyone who chooses to believe in life will experience it fully, abundantly, and eternally.

There’s another word to consider: Believe. Whoever believes…

Again, that has been used as if belief is currency – whoever spends the coin of belief will have purchased a membership in the heavenly country club.

But spiritual belief isn’t an opinion, it’s a commitment. To say “I believe” is to say, “I set my heart on…” To search for meaning, significance, truth, to seek to be in communion with the divine, to wish to be used by God to bless others…this is setting our hearts on a path, and that path leads where it must, to the very heart of God. Or to an awareness of God’s heart in which we have always been at home.

So hear John 3.16-17 again, in a new way:
“For God so loved everything, that God gave everything, all that God is, that whoever set their heart on God or the search for meaning by any name, would discover that they were forever safe in the love that God is. For God didn’t give all that God is to condemn the cosmos; God gave God’s best and God’s all so that the cosmos would find itself forever safe in God.”

God created from God’s own Self, and so all that is created is the child of God, and the child of God is on a spiritual journey that leads to a renewed awareness that God is the All-in-all and we can never be separated from God.

God so loved the cosmos.
Muslims are part of the cosmos.
Jewish people are part of the cosmos.
Atheists are part of the cosmos.
Hindus are part of the cosmos.
Women who march are part of the cosmos.
People struggling to regain their health are part of the cosmos.
Refugees are part of the cosmos.
People who need a helping hand are part of the cosmos.
Transgender youth are part of the cosmos.
Same-gender loving people are part of the cosmos.
People in recovery are part of the cosmos.
People who live with the constant threat of war are part of the cosmos.
And these people need to hear that God LOVES the entire cosmos!

We are made of God-stuff. God gave everything, God’s best, God’s Self, to create us and God’s love and light are part of us. We will never be separated from God’s grace and love. To embrace that is like a new lease on life, a new birth. And it is the gift we are offered today. This is the good news. Amen.

Dear God,
I set my heart on you.
I know that I am forever in your heart.
You are the Maker, the Plan, and the Stuff of my life.
Alleluia!
And amen.

We Can Make A Difference

On January 21, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

We Can Make a Difference Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Jan 21, 2018 Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. We usually think of Jesus meek and mild, but Jesus was […]

We Can Make a Difference
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Jan 21, 2018

Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

We usually think of Jesus meek and mild, but Jesus was also very passionate.

We see him this morning having an outburst in public, knocking over tables. What got into Jesus? Of all things, why attack money exchange clerks and dove merchants?

The money changers served a legitimate function. In Jesus’ day, we wouldn’t have images. We’ve all been in churches with statues or icons or brass pulpits that looked like an eagle or people depicted in the stained glass windows…images that have been engraved into surfaces. But graven images were a no-no. They took that so seriously in Jesus’ day, that they wouldn’t let you bring money in the Temple that had someone’s face on the coins.

We’ll take your Washingtons, Lincolns, Hamiltons, Jacksons, and Franklins…we’ll take your check with birds or flags or clouds on them…we’ll swipe your credit card with your own photo on it…but not in
Jesus’ day. No images meant NO images.

So, some enterprising people set up a money exchange service.

In Rome, mere feet (or meters) from the walls of Vatican City, there are shops where you can buy papal swag, or a hot seminarians beef cake calendar, but that doesn’t really go to support papal ministry.

I think that’s what was going on in Jesus’ day. People knew you needed Temple currency to spend in the temple, so they set up shop. Of course, there was a fee. It was a business to enrich the business owner, not really a fundraiser for ministry.

Now, if you didn’t bring a sacrifice, you’d buy one there at the temple. Again, someone has set up the Sacrifice on Site Store. I buy two birds, because I don’t have enough for a four legged animal. That I’m buying birds shows you that I’m not a rich guy, and I’m already less rich than I was an hour ago.

I’ve spent money at two shops before I ever get inside the Temple! I want to support the Temple, but so far, I’ve supported the Money for Money Shop and the Sacrifices to Go Mart. The bird sellers are making money and the money changers are making money…off of me, poor peasant guy who just wants to worship in my religion’s famed temple.

Jesus has a fit and falls in it, but not because people are supporting the Temple, his own parents gave a gift of turtle doves to the Temple when he was born. Jesus grew up hearing about and practicing tithing. Jesus praised the widow who gave a mite, all she could to support the temple ministry.

Jesus gave food and wine and healing and time and wisdom and whatever else he could all the time. Even in his passionate display today, he’s basically giving his life for what he believes. The consequences of his outburst will
be fatal…he gave courageously from his heart anyway.

Jesus wants us to be generous, but when he sees the rich and powerful lining their pockets at the expense of the poor, marginalzed, or oppressed and using God’s temple as cover for their exploits, then he displays righteous indignation.

Jesus is furious that people are using religion to cheat others, to keep them down, to break them rather than to lift them up, and when you make religion be something to enrich the already rich or to keep some in power at the expense of the disadvantaged, Jesus is then ready to take names and kick butt.

And that’s why we see him confronting people who are exploiting the vulnerable. Exploitation of the vulnerable is apparently the one thing that gets Jesus fighting mad.

Jesus quotes scriptures from his own tradition when he’s confronting those who are exploiting the poor. He quotes the prophet Isaiah, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” Of course, the prophet says, a house of prayer for all peoples, all nations, all ethnicities, all races, all economic classes…all groups of people, all kinds of people.

Jesus also quotes the prophet Jeremiah who asked in his own day, “Has this house become in your eyes a den of thieves?” Standing with the prophets, Jesus affirms the dignity of all people and insists that God’s house is where the sacred value of all people is to be acknowledged and celebrated. The Temple isn’t cover for the powerful, its refuge and sanctuary for the
hurting and marginalized.

And then, in response to his radical affirmation of those who had been exploited, the lame and the blind come for healing. Jesus is engaging scripture again. Leviticus 21 says that those who have physical limitations or challenges can’t serve as priests at the altar, but Jesus, in the Temple, lays hands on the hurting…as if to say, your body may have some issues
right now, but the real you, the spirit that you are, is, always has been, and always will be whole and perfect. Embrace your wholeness and serve the Lord with gladness.

Then what happens? Children say admiring things about Jesus. And again, he quotes scripture, the 8th psalm: “Out of the mouths of babes God has brought forth praise.” Children have no power, but they are the ones to affirm Jesus, and by lifting that up, the writer is affirming the dignity and goodness of children and all who have been rendered powerless.

And then Jesus leaves for Bethany. Bethany is where his chosen family lived. Two women who called themselves sisters, and a man they called their brother all lived together in Bethany: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. The exact nature of the various relationships is a matter of rigorous investigation among Queer theologians, but in any case, three unmarried adults without children living together was uncommon, a biblical example of what makes a family…love and choice.

In this one gospel text:
Jesus fights for the poor.
Jesus comforts the hurting.
Jesus empowers the powerless.
Jesus affirms non-traditional families.

Matthew wanted us to see who Jesus was, and therefore, what we who follow Jesus are meant to be. This story shows a dramatic and radical commitment to the poor, the powerless, the vexed and the vilified. This disruption in the Temple struck fear in the hearts of the guardians of the status quo, and that is almost certainly what led to Jesus’ arrest and execution.

But he couldn’t be silent…when he saw the poor, the victimized, the marginalized, the suffering having their suffering needlessly enhanced, or having their suffering ignored, or having their suffering used to enrich others…he couldn’t be silent. He had to speak up; he had to do something. It might have cost him something, maybe, as it turned out, it would cost him everything…but he believed he could make a difference, and if he could, then he reasoned, he must.

I am asking you today to renew your commitment to the mission and ministry of Sunshine Cathedral for another year. I’m asking you to worship with us faithfully, every Sunday that you are able, and we gather at other times as well. I’m asking you to volunteer sometimes, either for a single project or for an on-going ministry. And I’m asking you to make a financial commitment to this church if you benefit from it in any way or if you believe in what we are trying to do in the world. Prayerfully dedicate a percentage of your net income to supporting your church and give your gifts as acts of worship.

We can make a difference, and we need all hands on deck to do all that we are called to do.

Jesus made a profound difference in the world, and in his name we strive to make a difference as well. This is the good news. Amen.

I believe I can make a difference.
Let me be a conduit through which divine goodness flows.
God bless me to be a blessing.
Inspired by Jesus, I want to serve your plan.
Amen.

The Most Wonderful Night of the Year – Christmas Eve 7pm & 9pm

On December 27, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

The Most Wonderful Night of the Year Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Xmas Eve Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, (+) may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. Some ideals are so noble, so inspiring, so uplifting, […]

The Most Wonderful Night of the Year
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Xmas Eve

Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, (+) may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

Some ideals are so noble, so inspiring, so uplifting, that as much as we admire and appreciate them, we tend to fall short of them. But when they are that good, we don’t give up the dream. We may fail to let the dream become a reality, but the dream itself is just too good to let go.

Take me for instance. I never give up on a beautiful dream. That’s why I’m in the 10th year of a 30 day diet plan.
I struggle with both my weight and my attitude about my weight…but even though I haven’t maintained my ideal form nor healed all of my body shame, I have not retired the idea of better fitness. Maybe one day I’ll reach my goal, or decide I’m the bee’s knees as I am, but even if I don’t, the dream itself is worthwhile.

Christmas represents the beautiful ideal that we all share but that collectively we have not yet made manifest. But every year, every Christmas Eve, we gather again to remember and rehearse the ideal…we keep the dream alive so that one day, we may actually live it.

So once again we return to the Nativity story. The story begins with Mary having her unplanned baby in a barn when she is traveling away from home. She swaddles her newborn and places him in a feeding trough.

At first blush…gross.
But isn’t that what love does? It takes what is available and transforms it. Love faces the fears and disappointments and gives miracles another chance.

Mary doesn’t have a crib, a playpen, or a bassinet. She has a manger. So, she has Joseph clean it up and she creates a makeshift bed for her baby. Love transforms what is available, turning the mundane into a safe place of comfort and rest.

When I was 5 and my brother was just born, some of my family members (including my infant brother and myself) were in a car accident. Everyone was injured except my brother. So, my great Aunt Viola came to the hospital to pick up the baby while the rest of us were admitted for treatment. Aunt Viola (we actually called her Aunt Ola) didn’t have baby things. So she found a box and transferred it into a little crib. That’s what love does. It transforms. A box, some blankets, and a caring great aunt was the formula for a safe and comfortable bed for a newborn temporarily separated from his family.

The Nativity story starts with people being denied a place of comfort, but transforming the humblest of surrounding into a delivery room, recovery room, and nursery. But it also shows other outcasts, shepherds who worked and lived outside in the fields with smelly sheep, being the unlikely ones to receive angel visitations and pronouncements of joy…showing that all people have sacred value.

And in case we missed that all people should have hope, peace, love, and joy in their lives, that all people have dignity and worth, the angels actually spell it out. They declare unambiguously that God’s will is for there to be peace and goodwill for all people.
We sing it. We celebrate it. We get all warm and fuzzy about the angel chorus: peace on the earth goodwill to all…

Maybe this is the xmas when those words will stay with us beyond the holiday and we will no longer rush to war.

Maybe this is the Xmas that those words fill our hearts causing our love and concern for people to extend to immigrants and refugees.

Maybe this is the Xmas that peace and goodwill to all helps us care for people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Maybe this is the xmas when we decide that peace and goodwill should be extended to the disadvantaged and marginalized, no matter who or where they are.

Maybe this is the xmas where thoughts of peace and goodwill offer a corrective to racism and xenophobia.

Maybe this is the xmas that peace and goodwill lead us to affirm that all people without exception are all the children of the loving goodness that we religious types call God.

Maybe this xmas we remember that the baby we celebrate grows up to say, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Peace on earth, goodwill to all…Dear God let this be the Xmas when we decide that ALL MEANS ALL.

Every year on Xmas Eve we gather to keep the dream alive. One day, may it be soon, the dream will become reality. Until that glorious day, the night we gather to dream the dream remains the most wonderful night of the year. And this is the good news. Amen.

Dear God,
Give us a Christmas miracle.
Let something good be born in our lives tonight.
Fill our hearts with hope, peace, joy, and love.
Amen.

Miracles of Love – Christmas Eve 10:30am

On December 27, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Miracles of Love Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Advent 4, 10:30 am Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, (+) may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. Luke 1.28: “Upon entering, the Archangel Gabriel said, ‘Hail Mary full […]

Miracles of Love
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Advent 4, 10:30 am

Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, (+) may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

Luke 1.28: “Upon entering, the Archangel Gabriel said, ‘Hail Mary full of grace; God is with you!”
The angels adds, “You have nothing to fear.”

And then the angel message continues: “You will give birth and you will call your child Yeshu.”

Wait. The name is Jesus. Well, it evolved into Jesus. Jesus is an anglicized version of a Latin rendering of a Greek translation of an Aramaic word.

So, Jesus isn’t a word Jesus would have ever heard or recognized. Jesus is how we know Jesus…it’s not how his mom knew him. So, when we say or pray or do things “in Jesus’ name” we are invoking his nature, his memory, his principles, his example…not his actual name, which in any language should not be used like a magic word to grant wishes. Still, he’s our friend and we can use our nick name for him: Jesus. Now, back to the story.

God is omnipresent love, and God communicates to Mary today through an angel, a messenger. So, Mary is hearing from, is experiencing directly, the power of love.

Love says to her: There is grace equal to your need.
Love says to her: God is with you.
Love says to her: Do not be afraid.
And Love says to her: Name your blessing.

Call the child Yeshu, Yeshua, Iesus, Jesus.

Your child will be a liberator, a healer, he will show people how can they be saved from hopelessness, despair, and segregation. Yeshu, Jesus, means savior. He’ll live up to the name.

Give him an encouraging name.
Give him a promising name.
Believe that good can come from this.
Don’t get stuck in the troubling beginnings, look ahead to what is possible and name it, claim it, invite it, expect it, allow it.
Call your challenge an opportunity.
Name your blessing.

Right now other people may be calling you and your future child other names, don’t buy what they’re selling.
You own your dreams, you name your possibilities, you claim your blessings. “There is good for me and I ought to have it.”

Your pregnancy hasn’t occurred the way or at the time you would have preferred – but your child will be great.

You may be feeling broken, fractured, fragmented right now – but the spirit of wholeness, of abundant life, of indomitable hope, of creativity will come upon you. You’ve got this.

These may not seem like ideal circumstances – but the power of God hovers over you.

The angel, in a nutshell, is telling Mary that she and her future child are God’s miracles, not God’s mistakes.

A Course in Miracles teaches us that a miracle is a change in perception from fear to love. Mary learns today that God is omnipresent Love, a loving presence and power that will always be with her. She can turn from her fears and toward the power of divine Love. She can even use the power of love to name and claim possibilities in life, a future full of hope.

In our own lives, in our own world, in our own time…there is anxiety, pain, uncertainty…but we have the power to believe in ourselves, to believe that God believes in us, and to affirm glorious possibilities. Those are the miracles offered in our story today. They are miracles of love, and this is the good news. Amen.

I give thanks for divine Love.
It gives me the power to overcome fear.
It gives me the power to name and claim my good.
Alleluia!
Amen.

A Miracle for Mary – Christmas 9am

On December 27, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

A Miracle for Mary Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Lessons & Carols (Advent 4, 9 am) +May God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. Luke 1.28: “Upon entering, the Archangel Gabriel said, ‘Hail Mary full of grace; God is with you!” The angel hits the ground running. Right off, the angel offers […]

A Miracle for Mary
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Lessons & Carols (Advent 4, 9 am)

+May God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

Luke 1.28: “Upon entering, the Archangel Gabriel said, ‘Hail Mary full of grace; God is with you!”

The angel hits the ground running. Right off, the angel offers affirmation.

Mary is pregnant. She didn’t plan to be. But here she is. And now an angel shows up, which could be a little overwhelming. But this peasant girl in an occupied territory who is unexpectedly pregnant gets a word from God: There is grace in the midst of all this drama and uncertainty. Hail Mary – FULL OF GRACE.

Now, what is grace, exactly? It’s unmerited favor. It’s a gift. It’s just there. We can’t earn it. We can’t lose it. God gives is freely and abundantly. It’s a free gift of unmeasurable love. Ten minutes ago Mary thought her world might be coming to an end. Now she hears from an angle that she is just chock full of grace.

How can she be sure that she has access to all this groovy grace? Because, as the angel clearly explains to her: God is with her.

That’s the comfort and the assurance that comes from our theology of omnipresence. There’s not a spot where God is not, so God must be here, with me, even when everything seems terrible. And if God is with me, God’s grace is available to me, and God’s grace is equal to every need.

Hail Mary full of grace, God is with you.

And then in verse 30 of Luke’s first chapter, the Archangel says to her, “You have nothing to fear.”

Life can be hard, even unfair. But we can take it. We can face it. We can rise above it. We can get through it. We can even find blessings along the way. We can face everything and rise; we can go to peace instead of to pieces. Because God is with us, and God’s grace is ours in abundance. Fear has no power over us…no more than we give it anyway.

A Course in Miracles teaches us that a miracle is change in perception from fear to love. Mary learns today that God is omnipresent Love, a loving presence and power that will always be with her. She can turn from her fears and toward the power of divine Love. That’s the miracle. Other exciting things will occur, even some very good things, but the primary miracle is one we can all share today: Hail Congregation, full of grace. You have no reason to fear, because God is love and God is with you.

And this is the good news. Amen.

Sing for Joy

On December 17, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Sing for Joy Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Advent 3, 2017 Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken may only God’s word be heard. Amen. I feel like singing today. Songs of Advent. First a song of hope […]

Sing for Joy
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Advent 3, 2017

Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

I feel like singing today. Songs of Advent.
First a song of hope ~
Sinatra:
[Just what makes that little old ant
Think he can move that rubber tree plant Anyone knows an ant, can't Move a rubber tree plant But he's got high hopes, he's got high hopes Hes got high apple pie, in the sky hopes So any time your gettin low Stead of lettin go Just remember that ant Oops there goes another rubber tree plant]

Secondly a song of peace ~
(Natalie Sleeth):
[Go now in peace, go now in peace
May the love of God surround you everywhere, everywhere you may go.]

And of course a song of joy ~
[I’ve got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart Down in my heart Down in my heart I’ve got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart Down in my heart to stay.]

Song of Mary:
My spirit rejoices!
Then more affirmations that if believed would have to inspire joy:
God has done great things.
God cares about every generation.
God is with us who want fairness.
God cares about the poor and oppressed.

It’s a song of joy because it recongizes the spiritual truth that isn’t always evident in the realm of sense perception.
God is love, but the world seems hateful sometimes.
God cares for the downtrodden, but people who claim to worship God keep oppressing and marginalizing others.
God has given strength, comfort and consolation time and again, and yet so much more is still needed.

Mary isn’t living a life of ease and privilege, but for a moment she sees with the eyes of faith; she sees into the realm of spirit where all is whole and joyful; perfect and fair; abundant and good.

The Prophet Isaiah tells us to share joy in the first reading…God anoints prophetic leaders to offer hope, to believe in healing possibilities, to comfort the hurting, the speak for the voiceless, to care about the downtrodden…to help people find and celebrate and share joy.
But you can’t share what you don’t have. So, Mary offers hope, consolation and promise to the downtrodden, but first she claims those gifts for herself. She finds reason to rejoice, then she expresses her joy, and then she affirms that joy is possible for others.
My soul magnifes the Lord who loves me and who loves everyone else as well.

Mary tells us
To claim joy
To focus on what is joyful
And that God’s omnipresence is reason enough for joy.

We are part and parcel of God (Emerson)
There’s not a spot where God is not
We say it until we believe it, and when we believe it we have joy, and if we have joy we have it to share.

Anxiety threatens joy…Affirm joy anyway. Sing a song of joy, like Mary did. Acknowledge God’s loving presence and affirm that God’s gift of joy is yours to embrace.

Nehemiah: The joy of the Lord is your strength.
Psalmist: A joyful heart is good medicine…
The Buddha: When the mind is pure joy flows like a shadow that never leaves.

Joy is more than contentment, pleasure, whimsy or fun…all of which are good, but joy is something that can happen when nothing is going right, joy is something that pops up when it makes the least sense but you need it the most. Joy is healing, joy gives strength, joy can happen in spite of and in the midst of suffering.

Happiness is when you get your way, but with joy, even if everything is terrible, still my soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my liberator, my helper, my healer, my source of unlimited supply. God has done good things and God has not retired.

God weeps when our hearts break and God encourages us at our deepest places when we need it the most. I cannot be separated from God; I am forever held in the love that God is. To know that is to joy.

I worked with a woman once who when things would go badly would immediately say, “Praise the Lord anyway.” Nothing could get her down…at least nothing could keep her down. If the worst life could throw at you gets a “praise the Lord anyway”…you’ll always bounce back.

Mary had an unplanned pregnancy, her fiancée almost left her, the future was uncertain but she found joy by basically saying, “Praise the Lord anyway!” My soul doth magnify the lord and my spirit rejoices.
That’s joy…the joy that comes from knowing there’s not a spot where God is not…even in the mess, God is there, so praise the Lord anyway.

Mary’s song of joy shows us the power of songs of joy. And so, as is my way, I share with you for the 11th time this song of joy:

(Gayla Peavy):
[I want a hippopotamus for xmas
Only a hippopotamus will do
Don’t want a doll, no dinky tinker toy i want a hippopotamus to play with an enjoy I want a hippopotamus for xmas I don’t think Santa Claus will mind do you He won’t have to use the dirty chimney flu just bring it through the front door that’s the easy thing to do I can see me now on xmas morning creeping down the stairs Oh what joy and what surprise when i open up my eyes and see a hippo hero standing there.
I want a hippopotamus for xmas
Only a hippopotamus will do
No crocodiles or rhinoceroses, i only like hippopotamuses And Hippopatmuses like me too, and hippopotamuses like me too!]

This is the day to claim your joy! And this is the good news! Amen.

Dear God,
Fill our lives with joy.
We receive it with gratitude.
And so it is!

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