Reign of Christ

On November 25, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Reign of Christ Rev Dr Durrell Watkins, Senior Minister 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. You’ll remember Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith Show. Well, I had an Auntie […]

Reign of Christ
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins, Senior Minister

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.

You’ll remember Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith Show.
Well, I had an Auntie from Wickes, AR.
Auntie was my dad’s aunt. She was the first person in the family to go to college and the first to earn a Master’s degree.

Auntie’s parents died in their 50s. Auntie, by contrast, almost doubled that by living to be 96. As a kid, she suffered from Asthma. She was considered the most delicate of her siblings, and yet she outlived them all.

When Auntie was 88 she was diagnosed with cancer. Because the disease was thought to be aggressive, the treatment would have been harsh, and she was already 88, the doctor suggested that she get her affairs in order, enjoy her remaining months and he assured her that he could keep her comfortable throughout.

She countered, “Tell me more about the treatment option.”

The doctor assured her it would be unpleasant, there was only a 50% chance of it working, and even if it did…why bother extending her life a year or two, if most of the next year would be uncomfortable from the treatment? At 88, there was just no point.

Auntie said, “I don’t seem to have much to lose, and I’d like to give it a shot.” The doctor thought this was foolish, but since she insisted, he would give her the difficult treatment.

PS – the treatment worked. At 88, Auntie received a treatment that had a 50% chance of giving her two more years of life…She lived 8 more years happy and surrounded by love and joyful activity. In fact, on her last day alive…her attendant picked her up, took her to get her hair done, and then took her to lunch…some of her favorite activities, and when she got home she lied down with perfectly coiffed hair, took a nap, and never woke up. 96 years concluded with a perfect day that ended with a peaceful passing.

She wasn’t afraid to try the treatment even with no guarantee of it working.
She wasn’t afraid of what people would think of her for seeking treatment against advice.
She wasn’t afraid to look for hope in what was described as a hopeless situation.
Because she could SEE hope, should could SEIZE it. And she seized 8 more years of life while she was at it.

Rev. Ike used to say, “If you can see it, you can be it.”

And comic Flip Wilson famously and repeatedly quipped, “What you see is what you get.”

If we can see it, we can seize it.
If we can see it, we can be it.
What we see, is what we are likely to get.

In the 6th chapter of the book of Isaiah we read, “I saw God on a lofty throne with a robe that filled the entire Temple.”
Throne represents power. Temple represents holiness. And a robe that fills all space symbolizes omnipresence. The prophet’s vision is of an omnipresent power that is all good.

Isaiah “sees” God as omnipresent, benevolent power.
He saw a power that was everywhere present. He understood God to be omnipresent Goodness.

How do we “see” God? It will determine how we experience God.

Today – the brief gospel lesson shows us Jesus riding into town on a donkey’s colt.
Not a stallion.
Not a chariot pulled by a team of horses.
A donkey.
And a colt at that – a baby donkey!
How ridiculous. Not a king on a war horse, but a peasant on a jack ass.

But what does the scripture say?
DO NOT BE AFRAID! Look! Your sovereign, your Lord is coming sitting on a donkey’s colt!

Do not be afraid to see hope in the unlikely.
Do not be afraid to see possibility in the ridiculous.
Do not be afraid to see the sacred in the silly.
Do not be afraid to see a miracle where others haven’t even looked yet.

Jesus would challenge the power structure, confront injustice, threaten systems of unearned privilege – and he would pay for his effort – but even in his failure he ignited a movement and cast a vision that inspires and challenges us still.

See his courage, his conviction, his conscience, his character…
Look past the clown on a clumsy colt and behold a prince on a prancing pony!
Dare to see possibilities, because what you see is what you get.

Jesus’ whole story is about finding God where others forget to look, remembering that there’s not a spot where God is not.
Jesus is born in a barn,
His mother’s husband is not his father,
His family were refugees in Egypt,
He sometimes (by his own testimony) had no place to lay his head,
He was arrested, tried, convicted, and executed for sedition,
Leaders of his own religion accused him of heresy,
He comes riding into town like a clown or a street performer on a ridiculous little donkey…
And in THAT life our religious forebears saw God.

If God shows up in that life, then God is present in every life…which means God is present to every situation, which means right here, today, no matter who we are, miracles are possible.

If we can see God in the Jesus story, we can see God anywhere, and if we can see God, we can experience God.
So our Reign of Christ scripture isn’t just about Jesus…it’s about life.

Don’t be afraid to try. Effort is empowering with or without success. Jesus failed to topple Rome, but gave a new vision for what the world could be, and that vision is compelling 2 millennia later. Thank God he made the effort.

Don’t be afraid of looking foolish. I had a cousin who wore a copper bracelet on his ankle…Swore it conquered arthritis pain. We laughed at him. But it worked for him, and he wasn’t going to let our chuckles keep him from his relief. Dag Hammarskjold said, “Never for the sake of tranquility deny the reality of your own experience.” Let’em laugh. Look ridiculous. And when you get the breakthrough, you can be the one laughing. And even if things don’t work out, how are you worse off for trying?

Don’t be afraid to see reasons for hope where others have not. If God is omnipresent, then hope is always reasonable. And even in failure, there will still be victory…even if Golgotha should happen, there will be resurrection. So dare to hope.

If we will dare to look for God in our circumstances, we are sure to find something amazing. Even a joker on a jack ass can prove to be a world changing miracle if we know what we’re looking for…and this is the good news! Amen.

There’s not a spot where God is not.
Today I will see and seize miracles.
Blessings abound.
Alleluia!
Amen.

Let There Be Peace

On November 18, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Let There Be Peace Rev Dr Durrell Watkins, Senior Minister

Let There Be Peace
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins, Senior Minister

 

What God Requires

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

What God Requires Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Micah 6.8 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. The prophet Micah asks rhetorically: How shall I worship God? Shall I give burned […]

What God Requires
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Micah 6.8

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.

The prophet Micah asks rhetorically: How shall I worship God? Shall I give burned offerings? Maybe a calf? Should I worship God with a barbecue? Does God like veal?

You know what, I bet that’s not enough. How about I worship God with a thousand rams? How’s that God? You want some rams?!

Wait? You know what’s better than rams? Oil. I don’t mean a little…I’m talking rivers of oil. The expensive stuff. That’ll get God’s attention.

No, shut up. I’ve got it. How about a child? I could give God my first baby.

The prophet’s audience probably thought that calf thing was fine. Doable. Why not?
A thousand rams sounded silly. Who’s got 1000 rams anyway?

Rivers of oil? You ain’t got no river of oil, and no one has enough money to buy that much oil.

But now child sacrifice? That one must have gotten a collective gasp. Micah has taken a flying leap into the middle of Lake Foolish.

But now that Micah has their attention, he gets serious:
You know what God wants. You’ve always known what was right and good. All that God requires of you is to do justice work, show kindness, live humbly.

Now, when we hear this, we usually hear it like this:
What does the Lord require of you but to DO JUSTICE, love mercy, and live humbly with God.

We hear it like it’s a command to do justice work, and then as icing on the cake Micah throws in, “and be nice and a little humble.”

But I don’t believe “love mercy and live humbly” are decorations or after thoughts…I think they are the plan for how to DO JUSTICE.

Oh, we’ve got justice work to do. But we can’t do it, we can’t even have the will to do it, without mercy and humility.

Mother Teresa said, “Justice without love is not justice; and Love without justice is not love.”

Philosopher/activist Cornell West said, “Never forget that Justice is what love looks like in public.”

We can talk about policies, social problems, inequities, systemic oppression, and inherited prejudices…and we have, and we should, and we will…but we won’t do a darn thing about any of it until we care about the people who are hurting.

Without compassion, kindness, empathy…we can’t do justice. We can’t even acknowledge that injustice is real if we don’t care about those who suffer from injustice.

So, mercy or compassion or kindness is a prerequisite for justice work.

If we don’t care that transgender people are routinely dehumanized then why would we work to protect them?

If we don’t care that, even still, same-gender loving people are booted out of their homes and families and churches, then why would we stand up for them?

If we don’t care that Christian theology has contributed to anti-Semitism and the suffering of Jewish people, then what would motivate us to deconstruct the language and attitudes that still hurt Jewish people?

If we don’t see Muslims as beloved children of God, then how can we be allies to them when they are targeted and vilified?

If we are disinterested in the brutal mistreatment of African Americans in this country for centuries, then how can help address the deadly racism of our own day?

Before we can make a difference, we must care. We have to see our fellow human-beings and wish for them all the good fortune we wish for ourselves. So, yes, do justice – but without compassion and empathy, we can’t.

Other biblical contributors were also singing Micah’s song.
You know that 1 John 4 tells us that God is love.
But you may be less familiar with 1 John 3.14 that tells us, “We know that we are fully alive because we love our brothers and sisters.”

We aren’t our best selves until we care about the Other. Not just our friends and the relatives we get along with…but people very different from us also. We live most fully when we care about more than just our small circle of friends.

The Torah instructs us in Deuteronomy 10: “What does God ask of you? To revere and love and serve God with all your heart and soul.”

It takes heart, and soul. Revere and love and serve God. How? With heart and soul. With mercy and empathy. Do justice, love mercy, live humbly.

The prophet Zechariah said, “Show kindness and compassion toward one another. Do not oppress widows and children, aliens in your country, or the poor.”

It’s like Zechariah read the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, the Christian Science Monitor, Teen Vogue, listened to NPR, and watched a few minutes of CNN and then responded directly to us: Don’t oppress the vulnerable and disadvantaged.

But when we are operating from love, from compassion and empathy…no one has to tell us that cruelty is wrong. And if we aren’t operating from love, compassion, and empathy…no prophetic exhortation will move us.

In the early days of AIDS, the liberal church was silent, and the conservative church preached blame and condemnation. The Queer Church and the unchurched had to be Christ while the larger church was unwilling. Many churches eventually did better once they realized it could be their siblings, their children, their grandchildren, their dearest friends dying alone. They didn’t change their behavior toward people living with AIDS until they saw them as people. We cannot do justice until we love mercy and live humbly.

About living humbly…Sometimes we equate humility with shame or defeat or low self esteem. That’s not righteous humility.

The humility that supports justice is empathy.
Those lacking empathy are incapable of true justice.
Justice is restorative and healing, and without compassion or empathy, such justice isn’t possible.

C. S. Lewis wrote, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; its thinking of yourself, less.”

When we care about the poor as well as our own comfort,

When we care about a national pathology that allows over 300 mass shootings in 10 months,

When we care about the health and welfare of every ailing or injured body,

When we care about families even if they practice a religion different from our own or if they don’t speak our language or if they came here seeking refuge by desperate means…when we will not abandon people to the hells they risked their lives to escape…that’s biblical humility, empathy, imagining ourselves in the other’s shoes and responding with the kindness we would hope to receive.

We can talk about doing justice, ushering in the kin-dom of God…but without love, without doing unto others as we would have them do unto us…all that justice talk is just talk.

Religion isn’t meant to damn people.
Religion is meant to encourage people to give a damn.

What God requires of us is to care about the person who is hurting. We don’t need to judge their suffering…the church let AIDS patients suffer because it judged them as deserving their plight. The church was wrong.

The church closed its eyes toward slavery. The church was wrong.

The church was silent as indigenous populations were decimated. The church was wrong.

Let us not be so wrong again. Where there is suffering, let us try to offer comfort…compassion, not condemnation.

God loves us, and wants us to share that love with the world. And as we love, we will do justice, because true justice comes from love. This is the good news. Amen.

I am now ready ~
To receive and to share ~
Mighty miracles.
Let the dew of healing grace fall on us all.
Amen.

Healing

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

The Very Rev Frank Fornaro

The Very Rev Frank Fornaro

 

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