Transformation

On April 15, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Transformation Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins April 15, 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. Saul is on a journey in today’s story. Not to Arizona, but to find, attack, […]

Transformation
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
April 15, 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.

Saul is on a journey in today’s story. Not to Arizona, but to find, attack, and round up followers of the way of Jesus.

The way of Jesus who touched untouchables.
The way of Jesus who loved the unloved.
The way of Jesus who looked at hungry crowds and no questions asked said, “Give them something to eat.”
The way of Jesus who said, “Let the one who has all of his or her ducks in a row cast the first stone.”
The way of Jesus who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
The way of Jesus who taught, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

These trouble making, do-gooder, peaceniks…Saul is out to get them.

But Saul is about to experience a transformation. He’s going to have a change of heart. He’s going to become one of these peace loving Jesus nerds. He just doesn’t know it yet.

On his way to Damascus, Syria, to attack people in the name of righteousness, he is stopped.
That point hits me hard today.

You see, there is not a spot where God is not, and while God is everywhere evenly present, the prophets (including Jesus) insist that God has special concern for the marginalized, the hurting, the poor, the struggling, the ill, the suffering.

God is with oppressor and oppressed, but is constantly trying to change the oppressor’s heart and bring hope and healing to the oppressed.

Saul’s experience of the Resurrected Christ transforms him. He is overwhelmed by light, and then he becomes a beacon of light himself. He starts to care about the very people he once demonized. He starts to realize that all people have sacred value, and he commits his life to sharing that truth.

Saul is healed. Scales are removed from his vision. He sees things differently. He now wants to be a healer rather than a warrior, and encourager rather than a punisher, a builder rather than a destroyer.

Will we dare to be transformed as Saul was? Will we pray?:
Change my heart, O God, make it ever true; change my heart, O God, may I be like you.
You are the Potter, I am the clay; mold me and make me, this is what I pray.
Change my heart, O God, make it ever true; change my heart, O God, may I be like you.

We need that kind of transformation.

Recently, some of us stood at the church in Birmingham where 4 little girls were killed by a racist’s bomb.
We stood under the balcony where Dr. King was shot at the Lorraine hotel in Memphis.
We walked the halls of Central High School where the Little Rock Nine were tormented for integrating that school.
We visited plantations in Louisiana where enslaved Africans were dehumanized, had their history, their culture, their language, their religion, and even their names stripped from them and where they were absolutely worked to death.

But these aren’t tributes to an unfortunate past…they are reminders of how human hearts still stand in need of transformation. God have mercy.

Just days ago in Philadelphia two African American men who were just sitting in a coffee shop waiting for a business associate were arrested and forced out of the coffee shop by six police officers. They were just sitting and waiting for a friend.

A couple of weeks ago Steven Clark in Sacramento was in his grandmother’s backyard. Police shot and killed him saying they thought they saw him brandishing a gun. It was a cell phone.

Human hearts still stand in need of transformation.

But racism isn’t Hate’s only weapon.
In 2016 at least 23 Transgender Americans were murdered.
In 2017 the number of murdered transgender Americans was 28.
So far in 2018, there have been 8, including Amia Tyrae who was shot multiple times this month in Baton Rouge.

The church has not saved the lives of those whose gender identities don’t match the gender label others try to force on them. And those finger waging, wrist slapping, name calling, hate-spreading preachers who demonize the transgender children of God are placing targets on their backs and share responsibility for their harm. Human hearts still stand in need of transformation.

Deadly homophobia is still with us, as well. Blaze Bernstein, a college student, was stabbed 20 times by a neo-Nazi. Ta’ron Carson was shot leaving a Kansas City nightclub. Jared Jacobs was killed when a man drove a car at high speed into a bar. Blaze, Ta’ron, and Jared just happen to be gay people targeted and murdered just this year.

The church has not yet assured same-gender loving people a place of dignity and security in our world.
O some churches have been bright lights, some synagogues, some politicians, some mosques, some police…but not enough. We at the Sunshine Cathedral try. Let us try harder.

Jesus said feed my sheep. It never occurred to him that he would need to say, “And also, do what you can to make sure the children of Flint, Michigan can drink from the tap.”

And if we really care about the victims of tyrants, and I hope we do, then let’s make a place of welcome for their refugees in our own country.

I grew up in the Bible Belt. Wretched, vile homophobic slurs and racist comments and segregated neighborhoods were the norm…and almost to a person these hateful, homophobic and racist remarks were made by people of faith. Where was the evolution, the transformation? Where was the melting of icy hearts and the widening of welcoming arms? They would try to pray away same-gender love but felt all too comfortable with hatred and bigotry. Calling love demonic and hatred angelic is a perfect example of getting it wrong.

If Religion assured you a spot in heaven but did very little to alleviate someone’s hell on earth, I beg you to rethink your religion.

It may be time for the scales to fall from our eyes, and for us to embrace a new vision of peace, healing, hope, and reconciliation…in Jesus’ name.

My friends…it is time to be transformed. I’m not talking about politicians or businesses or the media…they will reflect who we are or what we will tolerate. We are the ones who must be transformed.

It is time to be the Resurrection. It is time to be Christ in the world…the healing, justice seeking, peace promising, hunger eliminating, water purifying, refuge granting, dignity affirming, all-loving Christ. With Song, Sermon, and Sacrament, with Time, Talent and Treasure, with Message, Mission, and Ministry, with Passion and Compassion, and Talk, Walk, and Resources…it’s time to change hearts, starting with our own. Nothing else will change the world. But if Saul can be transformed, so can we. And this is the good news. Amen.

Let us be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Let us be bearers of the Christ Light.
Let us be healed…
And let us be healers in our world.
Amen.

Show me.

On April 9, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Show me. Preached by Rev. Anne R. Atwell Sunday, April 8, 2018 Let us pray, “Divine Spirit of goodness and of light…guide us so that we may not be instruments of our own or other’s oppression. And may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts bring peace and healing to […]

Show me.
Preached by Rev. Anne R. Atwell
Sunday, April 8, 2018

Let us pray, “Divine Spirit of goodness and of light…guide us so that we may not be instruments of our own or other’s oppression. And may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts bring peace and healing to our world. Amen.”

Many of you know that I grew up in a very small town in Northwestern/North Central Pennsylvania. It is quite a rural area which relied heavily on manufacturing jobs to keep the economy afloat. Of course, much of the manufacturing industry has either closed its doors or moved out of the country entirely. And that leaves many people, who have lived in this rural area their entire lives, out of work OR working at a job which doesn’t provide a living wage. There are also those who are simply too old or too ill to leave the area in search of greater economic stability, so they’re stuck in a most difficult situation. And because this is such a rural area, there aren’t the caring resources available to assist those who happen to be in such dire straits.

One of the resources that has disappeared from this small, rural area is any organization which will provide a hot meal to those who might otherwise go without and so the local faith based communities banded together to create their own Food Sharing Program. They wanted to ensure that no one in their area would go hungry.

My mother is part of one of these faith based communities. Every Wednesday morning she gets up bright and early, goes down to her church, and she along with about eight other women bake casseroles, slice bread, cut freshly baked cake into pieces to be shared, and they put together lunches for about 50 homebound folks. And not only do they create and then pack the meals, they drive together in small groups to deliver the meals, checking in on those who need a friendly face. Now, on the surface, this may seem pretty simple….but most of these women, who are in their 70’s and 80’s, saw a need in their community and are working hard to fill that need. They may not be able to change the world, but they can do something. And that “something” is very important to those who are in need of their outreach.

In the gospel message we just heard, the writer of John shares that after Jesus’ crucifixion, his disciples were gathered together behind locked doors for fear of the religious authorities. Can you imagine how they must have been feeling? Grieving, scared, wondering what had happened? Suddenly, out of nowhere, Jesus appears. The passage from John’s gospel doesn’t say how Jesus got in the room – just that he showed up and spoke with the gathered group.

So, the disciples are gathered together, mourning the death of their dear friend and Jesus breaks into that secure place, that space of feeling safe and sound and away from the troubles. And Jesus speaks to them…“Peace be with you. As I was sent, so I send you.” When Jesus breathes on them, filling them with the Holy Spirit, he instructs them on the ways of forgiveness.

According to this passage, Jesus appears again a week later bidding the group, “Peace. Peace be with you.” When Jesus speaks to Thomas, he doesn’t admonish him. Jesus invites Thomas to believe in the goodness that can occur when you least expect it. After everything the disciples had been through, I have to think it would have been difficult to believe that Jesus had returned. So I don’t dwell on the doubt that Thomas had. I actually have kind of a soft spot for the guy.

Now, this story, this allegory, is rich with lessons, with instructions as to what we need to do as followers of Jesus’ message. It is a reminder to us that Easter doesn’t end on Easter Sunday and that resurrection is not an isolated event. It continues on and on, every time new beginnings occur, every time evil and suffering do not win, every time death does not get the final word, there is resurrection.
During both visits that Jesus has with the gathered group, both times he offered them “Peace.” And what we need to know is that the peace that Jesus offers really isn’t our conception of peace, as something tranquil, as something serene. No, what Jesus was doing was encouraging his followers to be peace-makers. Now, that’s very different than what many of us imagine, isn’t it?? He tells them “As I was sent, so I send you.” His instructions are clear; the disciples have received their commission. Get out there and do the work of being a peace-maker by stepping-up, by showing-up, by making a difference. He tells them to stir the waters, to make waves when injustice is witnessed, when those who have no voice are treated unfairly. Jesus is encouraging his followers to move from their comfort zone and to welcome the outcast, the marginalized, and to turn upside down all society’s oppressive conventions which have been normalized. But, and this is a big one, to commit to this type of peacemaking is costly. The disciples knew that. They saw what Jesus went through and I’m sure they thought long and hard about the cost of following Jesus and what it would mean for them.

You know, people don’t often want to hear that in order to truly fulfill the kin-dom of God, social status and privilege must be set aside. Oh no, we don’t want that! This peace-making must move us from behind closed and locked doors.
The noted philosopher “anonymous” reminds us that peacemaking actually looks something like this.

“Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, demanding pursuit of reconciliation and justice. It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free. Peacemaking is about being able to recognize in the face of the oppressed our own faces, and in the hands of the oppressors our own hands.”

This past Wednesday, we marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The group from Sunshine Cathedral’s Civil Rights tour was actually in Memphis this past Wednesday, April 4, which was the date of the anniversary. And when I think of those who worked as peacemakers, those who worked so hard, who spoke out against injustice and inequality and violence, I immediately think of Dr. King. He advanced the cause of civil rights by using non-violence and civil disobedience as his tactics. He organized marches and boycotts so that those who were considered the “least of these” by the U.S. society would obtain equal rights. Dr. King worked for peace and for justice for people of color and he worked to fulfill the gospel message by following the footsteps of Jesus. Dr. King wrote, “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” Dr. King was a peacemaker even when others worked to silence his voice.

Being a peacemaker certainly isn’t for the faint of heart – particularly in a world that is being torn apart by war, where guns are so prevalent and people’s lives are marred by violence at home and in the schools. And it can be scary to be that voice that calls out injustice; that calls out inequality; that calls out discrimination. We may have people, our loved ones, our family and friends, telling us that we should simply mind our own business, we should follow the status quo, and we should just keep the peace. But if we keep quiet about things that matter, there is no peace. There may be quiet, but there is no peace. We must set aside our fear, our reticence and be the peacemakers that our world desperately needs.

Feminist writer and womanist theologian Audre Lorde wrote, “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

During my sermon preparation research, I saw something that I had not seem before. For those faith communities who follow a lectionary…either the narrative lectionary or the revised common lectionary, this Sunday is call the Second Sunday of Easter. The Second Sunday of Easter. Please note that it is not called the Second Sunday since Easter or the Second Sunday after Easter and now we don’t have to go to church or do much of anything until at least Advent or Christmas! This Second Sunday of Easter reminds us that the Easter message continues. That evil and suffering and even death do not get the final word! That new life and new beginnings can occur at any time and that Jesus may show up when we least expect it – in the faces of those we meet every day.

After Thomas heard of the disciple’s encounter with Jesus, Thomas told them, “Unless I see…I will not believe.” Thomas said, “Show me.” I need to see this of which you speak! Show me and I will believe. I have this image of Jesus saying the same to us. Show me, my dear ones, how you will continue to live out the Easter message. Show me how you will truly welcome all people into this community. Not just those who look like you but ALL people. Show me how you will work to break down systems that oppress those in society’s margins. Show me how you will reach out to women and children, the transgender community, those who lack adequate food and shelter and medical care, those refugees who are literally running for their lives. Show me how resurrection power, how only goodness and love will fill your lives. Show me how you will be a peace-maker in this world.

The Dalai Lama reminds us, “The planet does not need more ‘successful people.’ The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of all kinds.”

My friends, it really is up to us to make a difference in this world. As we move from this place and carry the Easter message of resurrection power out into our world, know that the Divine One is calling to each of us…Show me and all people compassion and equality. Show me and all people kindness and justice. Show me your care as well as your action. Show me that you are a peace-maker!

This is the good news,
Amen.

~~~~~
I will show compassion to all.
I will show kindness to all.
I will show care for all.
I will work for peace.
And so it is.
Amen.

I Have Seen the Lord

On April 1, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

I Have Seen the Lord Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Easter Sunday 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. How interesting to be a 21st century person of faith. We’ve […]

I Have Seen the Lord
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Easter Sunday 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.

How interesting to be a 21st century person of faith. We’ve inherited stories that came to life before the discovery of the egg cell, before the understanding of gravity, before the awareness that we live in a heliocentric universe, before a universal consensus that slavery is an evil institution. We have inherited marvelous stories from times and cultures and lives very different from own. And yet, we continue to share the ancient stories and make meaning of them and find hope in them.

Religion scholar and former nun Karen Armstrong says, “Storytelling is fine as long as you can encourage people to act on the stories.”

So, once again, we come to Easter and we hear an old story. The Resurrection story is told over and over in many ways. It is a universal hope, an everlasting promise.

The Prophets Elijah and Elisha performed some resurrections in the Hebrew bible.
Jesus raised a couple of kids back to life, and his companion Lazarus.
There’s a sort of mass resurrection on the day of Jesus’ executed, or so says the writer of Matthew’s gospel.
And the Apostle Paul resurrected Tabitha and Eutychus from the dead.

And those stories are just from our bible. They don’t even include resurrection narratives from other traditions.

Ancient Norse, Egyptian, and Greek narratives all offer resurrection stories.

So by the time we get to Jesus’ Easter morning, we shouldn’t be that surprised. This story keeps getting told. It is the good news…
that love cannot be killed,
that hope when crushed will rise again,
that our lives have meaning beyond our earthly years,
and that no matter how hard or far we fall, we can get back up.

Even if the innocent are slain, that’s not the end of the story.
AIDS can wipe out almost an entire generation,
wars can ravish entire continents,
Dr. King can be slain on a balcony for trying to heal his country’s sins of racism and economic injustice,
our transgender siblings can be killed in droves with almost no mention at all in mainstream media,
a man can be shot repeatedly for nothing more than holding his own cell phone,
but that cannot be the end of the story.

From those ashes of oppression and despair a phoenix of hope and healing will rise,
from tombs of grief and exhaustion people will one day come out into the light of compassion and renewal.

I believe we have often made the mistake of worshiping the violence of the cross instead of focusing on the Resurrection’s victory over the cruelty of the cross. God’s plan wasn’t the killing; God’s plan was not letting the killing have the last word.

Rome, Herod, Pilate, Golgotha…they did their worst and still the faithful insist, “I have seen the Lord!” Golgotha lost. It must always lose. That’s why I shout Alleluia this morning.

Jesus is in the room today…living in our gospel story, living in our Communion Feast, living in our imaginations, living in our efforts to be his resurrected body, returned soul, and indomitable spirit in action here in this world.

So, how do we live as if Resurrection Power is our truth? How do we live this story as our own today?

Mary didn’t argue theology, doctrine, dogma, traditions, talking points and bumper sticker slogans about Resurrection. She had her own experience and she shared her experience. It wasn’t an intellectual exercise. It was something felt and it had to be telt.

I was crying, and then in the midst of my sorrow I experienced my friend, I had a glimpse of hope, I had my purpose renewed, I realized that I was more than my pain…I have seen the Lord and I know others are hurting so let me tell them, there is peace beyond pain and hope beyond horror. I have experienced the Sacred, I have been infused with Resurrection Power…and it if happened for me, it can happen for you.
She had her experience. She shared her experience.

How are we going to embrace and share Resurrection Power, today?
Have we had a life changing experience of the Sacred? Are we committed to helping others have it, too?

Could our own spiritual experience help lift up the downtrodden, or give life back to those whose lives have been diminished? If we aren’t going to live it, who cares what we believe about it!

It is true that we can’t give what we don’t have. We can’t teach what we don’t know and we can’t lead where we won’t go. As the wise old folk used to say, “Your talk talks, and your walk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.” Ralph Waldo Emerson put this way: “What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.” So, how are we going to live this story?

The youth of our country are tired of being shot at. And they’ve faced their pain. They’ve named it. They’ve organized around it. They are trying to change things in a positive way. Will they succeed? Time will tell. Will everyone agree with their methods? Of course not…universal agreement isn’t even a thing. But have they been empowered and started a journey toward healing? They are living resurrection power, and they are sharing it.

Will we be receivers, workers, and sharers of miracles going forward?
Will we find renewed faith and commitment today, and then share it gladly: I have seen the Lord!

Will we recommit today to the spiritual path, to building up the faith community, to sharing our progressive faith, to sharing resources so that we can reach more people with more encouragement, more affirmation, more hope?

Will we tell people how it is that we have seen the Lord? Of course, we may use different vocabularies all together. We may say:
I have experienced the sacred.
I have found peace beyond pain
I have embraced hope beyond horror.
I have come to believe that there’s not a spot where God is not, and so no one is ever outside of God.
I have discovered that I am God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.

For those who thought faith wasn’t an option for them, or that no faith community would accept them, it is a resurrection to find joyous, spiritual community, and to begin to live a life of learning, service, sharing, and indomitable hope.

I have seen the Lord, and I need to share that joy, like Mary.
Have we got any Marys in the room?

This is the good news. Amen.

Today, I see the Good.
Today, I experience the Sacred.
Today, I am infused with Resurrection Power.
Alleluia!
Amen.

Navigating Hope & Horror

On March 26, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Navigating Hope & Horror Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Palm/Passion Sunday 2018 May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, holy One, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen. Our first reading from John’s gospel shows exuberance. There would have been Passover celebrations in the city…official, permitted celebrations. Government […]

Navigating Hope & Horror
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Palm/Passion Sunday 2018

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, holy One, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

Our first reading from John’s gospel shows exuberance. There would have been Passover celebrations in the city…official, permitted celebrations. Government officials would have participated. It was a way of keeping the people happy and also keeping an eye on them. Controlling the celebrations meant controlling the people. So, the parades and block parties would have been carefully choreographed and closely supervised.

But in the back part of the city, Jesus comes riding into town. He’s not an invited guest, not an honored speaker or parade participant. But he and his friends and his admirers and few curious onlookers have created their own unofficial parade. Nothing grand. Just a donkey, a couple dozen folk, a few palm branches. But this ragtag group break into a bit of street theatre. They are acting as if they are having a parade, and their parade isn’t sanctioned. Indeed, it is making fun of the government and imagining the government being somehow toppled.

They wave branches like Pom poms, like weapons, like battle flags, and they pretend Jesus is a conquering hero who might set up his own government in exile. And they cry out, “Save us! Hosanna!” As if a peasant from out of town riding on a donkey was going to topple the Roman Empire. It’s almost farcical.

It was all cathartic and subversive. It was a protest really, a protest against colonization, against domination, against military might that had seized their land and coopted their culture. And it felt good to express themselves, to dream out loud, to imagine a day when God’s kin-dom of mercy and justice and goodwill and shared prosperity and peace would replace earthly empire and world super powers.

But standing up, speaking out, even in creative, artistic, theatrical ways, can have consequences. That impromptu guerrilla theatre experience, that pretend parade with a ridiculous donkey and some leaves, was followed by a more in your face protest at the Temple when Jesus acted up in ways that got him noticed and probably sealed his fate.

Other confrontations, betrayal, denial, arrest, trial, and conviction all led to Jesus being sentenced to death. Capital punishment. Death by torture. The unspeakably brutal and barbaric form of execution known as crucifixion.

In what was probably the span of only several days, Jesus has gone from performing in the streets to disturbing the peace at the Temple, to being betrayed and abandoned by his dearest friends, to be tortured to death.

What a crazy weak, full of hope and horror, catharsis and catastrophe, purpose and pathos, moments of moral victory and desperate defeat.

Life is full of such ups and downs. My friend Martha is a dear lady in East Texas. She has a smile that could melt a glacier. And she’s never said an unkind word in my hearing. A year or two ago she was diagnosed with cancer. And she went through treatment and never complained. In fact, she made her daily chemo treatments sort of a party. She’d lead the celebration when someone finished their treatment. She’d wish people well when they began their treatment. She’d laugh and chat with everyone in the clinic…making each day more like a social event at a beauty parlor instead of an energy draining, nauseating fight for survival.

At the end of her treatment cycle, the news wasn’t that good. So, they decided to give her a bit of a break then start all over again. She enjoyed the break, and re-entered treatment with the same amazing attitude that she had the first go round. Her hair fell out, and she was rocking beautiful scarves and posting her pics of Facebook, and later, when her hair returned, she who had for years sported long, thick silver locks now featured with utter glee a very smart and fetching short do. Also, she experienced, finally, remission.

But that joy was short lived. After only a few months, the dis-ease has returned and spread. They are trying a new medicine which in some people has had miraculous results. She’s agreed to the treatment, but she also knows that it isn’t guaranteed to work. How is she handling that?

She’s planning a party at her favorite restaurant. No date set yet…it’s to take place within days of her death…whenever that might be. She’s thankful for her partner, a sweet many she’s been with for several years now. She’s thankful for her countless friends. She’s thankful that many of those friends will one day have a dinner party in her memory. She’s thankful that spirit never dies.

I hope the new treatment provides her a cure that we can celebrate in grand fashion, but whether it does or not, she has shown the world what healing looks like. She’s chosen love over fear, gratitude over regret. Martha is living the famous prayer that Franciscan nun Sister Thea Bowman prayed when she was fighting cancer…her prayer was, “Lord let me live until I die.” Martha has been living with, not dying from, dis-ease. And she’s going to keep on living every day that she has life.

She’s had Palm Sunday defiance, and Good Friday disappointment, and Easter joy.

That’s what this season offers us…a reminder that life is full of ups and downs, but nothing can keep our spirits down. Resurrection power is at hand.

Yeah though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death we will fear no evil for God is with us, and the tools God has given us comfort us. Surely, goodness and mercy will attend us all the days of our lives and we will dwell in God’s presence forever.

We are on the way to Golgotha this week, but Golgotha isn’t the end of the story. There’s more hope, more joy, more life even beyond the darkest night. There may be tears, but there are also parties to celebrate precious memories and undying resilience.

Join us on Good Friday as we commemorate Jesus’ death, and join us again on Easter Sunday as we celebrate the Truth that not even death ends the story…not Jesus’, and not ours. This is the good news. Amen.

Dear God,
Please help us,
And those dear to us,
In whatever ways are needed most.
Amen.

Truth

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

Truth Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins March 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. We religious types should be serious about what we wish to accomplish, but we shouldn’t […]

Truth
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
March 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.

We religious types should be serious about what we wish to accomplish, but we shouldn’t be joyless, or heartless.

That’s what Jesus showed us. Jesus loved to eat with people, even and sometimes especially with those that the uptight religious folk said he shouldn’t hang around with at all.
Jesus went to parties, where at least once he got stuck tending bar.
Jesus just liked being around people and showing them that they deserved love and joy in their lives.

Jesus spent his time and energy giving people their dignity back, loving the unloved, touching the untouchable, affirming the sacred value of all people. Jesus was religious, but he would not be oppressed by religion nor would he use religion in oppressive ways.

And that really started to encourage people. Instead of telling them how bad they were, or how angry God was with them, or how limited their lives had to be, Jesus helped people to realize that they could release their demons of fear and regret, they could feel whole in spite of physical challenges, they could affirm themselves even if others had looked down on them, they could approach God directly and experience God’s goodness for themselves. They could play and pray and work and love and hope and even start to believe that they were God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.

When people used religion to justify cruelty, Jesus offered another way to look at things. He was always challenging the status quo, and reminding people that if your dogma had left you with an angry, vicious, or cruel god, then you had taken a wrong turn. Hope, healing, joy, peace, love…that’s what the God of Jesus offers, and so if that’s not what we’ve got, then maybe we should try again.

Because Jesus was helping people experience peace and joy in their lives, he developed quite a fan base. And some of those fans started talking about him like he was a prince, a warrior, an anointed leader. And now, people have reported this to the authorities. And Jesus is on trial for treason against the empire and he is being asked, “Are you a king?”

He’s not, well, not in the way he’s being accused. He’s not setting up a government. He’s not raising an army. If he were a king, even a pretender king, in the way he’s being accused his militia would be trying to rescue him…he clearly has no such militia.
What he has are ideals, and compassion, and hope, and grace. He’s not a conqueror, he’s a healer; not an oppressor, but a liberator; not a tyrant but a prophet who challenges tyranny without ever holding a weapon and certainly without turning faith into a weapon.

No Pilate, Jesus is not a king in the way you think about kings, people want to follow him because they love him and he’s loved because he’s given love. He’s laughed with people. He’s prayed with people. He’s encouraged people. He’s given love, and they’ve returned it.

When it was clear that she would never be the Queen consort of the United Kingdom, Princess Diana said, “I want to be queen of people’s hearts.” Jesus reigned in people’s hearts…not with power and privilege, but with peace and purpose. He just loved people so much that he became part of them…that’s how he reigned. The power of love is the truth to which he is determined to witness. And Pilate dismisses that with the flip retort, “What is truth?”

Jesus has already shown what truth is…the truth is that God is unconditional, all-inclusive, everlasting love.

He rescued a woman being stoned by religious men…stop using religion to beat up those you have labeled sinners.

Jesus touches lepers and affirms their dignity. It is cruel to abandon those who are hurting. Jesus extends a loving touch.

When he sees hungry people in a crowd, Jesus tells his disciples, “Give them something to eat.” He didn’t blame the hungry, he just wanted them fed.

Over and over Jesus shows what is true…love is what is true. People want to argue doctrine and dogma and tradition and texts…but Jesus didn’t argue the fine points of dogma. There are hundreds of commands in scripture, when asked what the most important was he answered: LOVE. Love God, love people. Just love.

Jesus reigns in people’s hearts because he helped them discover the power of love, because he helped them experience peace, because he gave them permission to have joy…not because he blugeoned them with dogma.

What is truth? LOVE.
God is love and those who love experience God and those who experience God as love discover hope, peace, and joy. That’s truth…and its so unnerving, that the powers that be tried to silence that truth by killing JEsus…and they try to silence it still with character assassination and intimidation and vilification and isolation…but they will fail. Tyranny seems to prosper for a time, but eventually it must fail…and theologies that paint God as a tyrant, they too will fail. That is the liberating, life-giving truth that Pilate can’t grasp but we can today.

Love is a healing balm. Love is God’s signature. Love is the truth. And this is the good news. Amen.

Dear God,
You are omnipresent,
Unconditional,
All-inclusive,
Everlasting Love.
This is my truth and my joy.
Amen.

Denying and Returning to God

On March 5, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Denying and Returning to God Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins John 18.12, 15-17 The Apostle Peter has been caught in an uncomfortable situation in the passage preceding today’s gospel reading. He barely escaped with his life, and now he is immediately in another kerfuffle and that’s what we heard read today. We are familiar with Jesus […]

Denying and Returning to God
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
John 18.12, 15-17

The Apostle Peter has been caught in an uncomfortable situation in the passage preceding today’s gospel reading. He barely escaped with his life, and now he is immediately in another kerfuffle and that’s what we heard read today.

We are familiar with Jesus telling Peter that he would deny him three times in one night before dawn (announced by the crow of a rooster). “Before the cock crows, you’ll deny me three times,” Jesus said. Peter said, “I don’t think so.”

He couldn’t imagine having a failure of nerve. He couldn’t imagine ever denying his relationship with Jesus, his commitment to the Jesus Way, his devotion to the healing and liberating message that Jesus shared. He was certain that he would never deny Jesus.

But then the authorities came one night with clubs and knives and torches…and they seized Jesus. And sure enough, Peter lept to Jesus’ defense. He unsheathed a sword (that apparently he was packing for just such an emergency) and he attacked one of the guards that had come for Jesus. He severely disfigures the guard, and Jesus says, “Peter, put away your sword.”

St. Paul tells us that the weapons of our warfare are not physical yet are mighty enough to pull down strongholds. We must resist injustice and oppression, we must take risks, we must speak truth to power, but violence isn’t the way…it’s not Jesus’ way. Jesus is revolutionary, but his revolution is not violent. Peter put away your sword.

That story is followed immediately by the one we heard today. Jesus is in custody. Jesus is having a hearing before being turned over to higher courts. And Peter is with him. Peter who is a disciple of an accused insurgent. Peter who an hour ago assaulted a guard sent to arrest Jesus.

So, when a woman asks Peter today, “aren’t you a disciple of that Galilean prophet?” He says, “Nope. Sure ain’t.” He’ll be asked twice more and twice more he’ll say, “Sorry, man; you’ve got the wrong guy.”

If Peter were to admit to being a sword wielding sidekick of the man currently under arrest for sedition, the next question would undoubtedly be, “Are you the one who stabbed a guard?” At which point just go ahead and schedule Peter’s execution.

It’s unfair to paint Peter as a coward…he’s already been in combat earlier tonight (for which Jesus chastised him), and he is standing in public where a whistle could bring down half a dozen armed soldiers in an instant. He was simply trying to develop a strategy for survival. But in so doing, he did deny Jesus.

He followed Jesus there so that he could help him escape if the opportunity arose, so he would have first hand info to share with the others. His sword fight has immediately been followed by an impromptu clandestine reconnaissance mission. He’s risked a lot twice tonight for Jesus. And he is heartbroken that in his desperate attempt to throw off suspicion he has actually denied the person he’s risked his life to protect.

Peter does return to his apostolic mission. He will speak boldly about the Jesus Way until he himself is executed some time later. Peter denied to survive, but he also returned.

I talk to people every single week who tell me they love what we stand for here at Sunshine Cathedral.
They love our arts programming.
They love that we feed people.
They love that we have support groups.
They love that we take a stand for justice.
They love that we celebrate diversity and affirm the dignity of all people, including and especially the LGBTQ children of God.
BUT, they invariably say to me, they can’t be church people because they are still so hurt by or so angry with religion, or because they find religion to be hateful and mean.

They hear the right wing evangelists preaching hate and horror, and they want none of it.

They’ve heard religion used as afterlife fire insurance; that’s not for them.

They’ve experienced religious dogma fanning the flames of monstrous cruelty instead of applying the salve of human compassion.

Many were told years ago that God rejected them because of an opinion they held or couldn’t hold.

Or they were told God would reject them because they were interested in another religion or because they had fallen in love with someone from another religion.

Or they were told that they would be damned for all eternity because they were same-gender loving…deal with that for 10 seconds…people still say that a loving God will condemn people for expressing their love and attraction for each other. Who wants that God?

In a world of nuclear capability, disease, hunger, mass shootings, fracking, corruption, and genocide…if what makes God twitch is my panting at Ryan Gosling then that God needs to go.

And if you have been blessed as I have to share your life with someone you love wholeheartedly, you know that is a blessing, and God rejoices at the love shared, not the number of Y chromosomes in the mix. God is love, and love loves love. Case closed.

People are exhausted by pettiness and pugnacity posing as piety.

They haven’t rejected God…they’ve rejected hate masquerading as God.

They haven’t rejected the healing, liberating, justice seeking, heart mending, oppression challenging, hope sharing Christ. What they’ve rejected is spiritual violence deplorably committed in Jesus’ name.

They’ve rejected the lie that it’s okay to put people through hell for heaven’s sake.
And so have many of us.
That’s why we covenant with God and with one another to be a DIFFERENT KIND OF CHURCH so that spiritual community and practice can be a healing force rather than a wounding weapon.

I’m not worried about the afterlife; I refuse to entertain for a moment that God will ever reject any soul for any reason. But I want us to build communities of love and hope and joy and justice.
I want us to celebrate life and diversity and intellect and feelings.
I want us to rejoice in our wholeness and I want us to encourage one another on life’s journey.
That’s what religion can be,
that’s what religion should be,
and at Sunshine Cathedral
that’s what we insist religion must be.

Finally, let me assure you, that while in our pain some of us may turn from God in order to feel safe, God will never turn from us. God is the love that will never let us go, and this is the good news. Amen.

Today & everyday
I will live in the power of my Truth
I affirm my sacred value
I declare & rejoice in God’s love for me
And so it is!

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.

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