God’s House

On December 31, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

God’s House Rev. Dr. Robert Griffin, Executive Minister

God’s House
Rev. Dr. Robert Griffin, Executive Minister

Christmas Eve at Sunshine Cathedral – We Need a Little Christmas

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

We Need A Little Xmas 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. What god does for us, god does through us. We can pray […]

We Need A Little Xmas
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.

What god does for us, god does through us.
We can pray for anything as long as we are willing to be the answer to the prayer.

Our theme tonight comes from a Scene from Jerry Herman’s musical, Mame.

During Great Depression…socialite Mame is with her chosen family and things are so dreary…they’re broke, sad, the future is uncertain…and Mame decides what they need is Xmas right now. It’s not yet Thanksgiving and its before department stores started piping Xmas at us around Halloween.

So, by force of will, the Mame household lifts their own spirit. Gifts are exchanged, decorations are dragged out, and, as happens in musical theatre and gay venues, everyone breaks out into song.

They needed hope. They needed joy. They needed peace. They needed togetherness. And they saw no reason to wait for it. So, they named and claimed their blessings on the spot. They celebrated all the good that xmas represents when they needed it. And, not only did they wish for peace and goodwill, but they chose to become the answer to their wish. And a little xmas miracle took place, early but right on time.

Mary is, as they say, with child, but the pregnancy was unplanned. Her situation is not ideal and her obstacles are enormous. Nevertheless, she expresses hope, and offers praise to God. Some might say her condition is unfortunate, but Mary says there is a blessing in this for her. She’ll get through the trial and future generations will celebrate her. Turns out, she was right!

But she isn’t just convinced that her child will be important, or that she will be fondly remembered, she also imagines a day of justice, of peace, of goodwill, a day of healing for all who need.

In her song, Mother Mary prophecies that in the fullness of time, God will have, “scattered the arrogant, put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly. And God will fill the hungry.”

As in Mary’s time, today:
We need hope.
We need justice.
We need generosity of spirit.
We need to care and share.

The Magnificat is saying we need a little xmas now…and, Mary is calling us to be the answer to our own prayer…See the need, pray for it be met, and then become the hands that make it happen.

Wish for an end to unjust systems
Wish for an End to exploitation
Wish for a time when all people might enjoy all of Life’s abundance
Wish for a time when all people can live in peace

Dare to dream of what might be, and commit to being part of making the dream come true.

Tonight’s stories tell us that a peasant girl with an unplanned pregnancy can still find reason to celebrate and can dare to imagine a world that is fair and just and filled with goodwill; and that her son, born in a barn facing an uncertain future can actually be the reason that angels sing and that communities gather.

Tonight we learn that every problem has a solution, every obstacle has a gift, and every rough place can be made smooth. The night may start out with all kinds of trouble, but wait, here comes the angel choir! Tonight we remember that the future has infinite possibilities!

We need a little xmas now…and throughout the new year.

And so, tonight, our souls magnify the Lord! As we join the angels in praying for and working for peace on earth, goodwill to all. And this is the good news. Amen.

My soul magnifies the Lord.
I am blessed to be a blessing.
I am a conduit of divine grace.
I am helping to make a better world.
And so it is!

Presence

On December 23, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Presence (Psalm 46; Matthew 1) Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins 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. It’s the last Sunday of Advent, a season of waiting, and that can mean […]

Presence
(Psalm 46; Matthew 1)
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

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.

It’s the last Sunday of Advent, a season of waiting, and that can mean only one thing…

{Song: I Want A Hippopotamus for Xmas}

Ive loved that song since I was quite young.
At first, it was a fun jingle with a wish for a comical, implausible gift.
But i never outgrew it!

Maybe because the song was originally meant to raise awareness to help raise money for an Oklahoma zoo. So, the song itself is an act of generosity.

Also, there is something theological about the song. Of course, to theologians, everything is theological. When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

The child in the song-story dreams big, believes that is she can dream it, she can somehow, eventually achieve it. She believes that goodness is present to her and would never withdraw from her. That’s good theology. And that’s Christmas. So…the dream hippo remains a part of my xmas celebrations.

Today’s scripture lessons reinforce the message that a loving presence is with us all, ready to be revealed where it is needed most, even where others have forgotten to look.

The Psalmist reminds us: God is our refuge and strength, a very PRESENT help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear…

Divine Love being present in a time of trouble is what Matthew’s story demonstrates today.

Matthew tells us that when Mary was engaged to Joseph but before they lived together, she found she was with child…

They weren’t living together. And Joseph was tempted to quietly leave her, because clearly, the child wasn’t his. But even though the child has questionable paternity and his conception is something of a scandal, the angel of God says the child’s origins are divine.

I think that’s God’s message to us, today and at all times. Not that this baby or that is conceived in strange or unlikely ways, but that no matter how any of us get here or where we land, we are each the child of God. If God is omnipresent, then we are all from and in God’s presence, which means no matter who we are, we are all the children of God.

No scandal, no mistake, no tragedy, no regret, no misfortune can separate us from the love that God is.
God is our source, our origin, our life.

Joseph knows the child isn’t his. He’s hurt. Disappointed. Angry. Embarrassed.
The Angel basically says, “All children are God’s children. We come through our parents, but we come from God. We are all divine children. So, Child of God Joseph, you take care of child of God Mary and child of God Jesus.”

Isn’t God telling us the same, today?
Be mindful of the Queer children of God.
Be mindful of the children that don’t fit into gender binaries.
Be mindful of children who are hungry
Be mindful of children dodging bullets.
Be mindful of refugee children suffering through not fault of their own.
The child may not be yours, but it is never the less your responsibility. Please take care of the child…Joseph.

So Joseph accepts Mary.
And Joseph accepts Jesus, and gives him a name, thus giving him status and the protection and stability that a family can provide.

And in this uncofomfortable situation, we find that God is with us.
Matthew misapplies a quote form the prophet Isaiah, but even while not being true to Isaiah’s intention, he nevertheless shows us something that is very true: God is our refuge and strength, a very PRESENT help in trouble. Therefore, we need not fear…

Jesus’ conception, birth, much of his life, and his final days are all wrapped in questions, intrigue, and danger.
And God loves him. God is with him. God smiles on those who help care for him. God is present in time of trouble.

Emmanuel. God with us. That’s not just about Jesus, but Jesus is one of the ways that we see that God is with us, no matter who we are or what is happening to or around us.

Have you felt alone?
Afraid?
Overwhelmed?
Today’s story reminds us that even when we feel those feelings, God is with us, loving us unconditionally, holding us close, never letting us go.

The name Jesus means rescuer. Jesus rescues us from fear and hopelessness by reminding us with his very life that whoever we are, wherever we are, God is with us. God’s love will never let us go.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help…Therefore, let us not give in to fear.
And this, dear friends, is the good news. Amen.

God is my refuge and strength.
God is always a present help.
Therefore, I will not fear.
Alleluia!
Amen.

 

Light

On December 16, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Light Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins 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. One of the sheroes of my spirituality is Nona Brooks. She was a teacher of the omnipresence of […]

Light
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

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.

One of the sheroes of my spirituality is Nona Brooks. She was a teacher of the omnipresence of God. She had grown up in the Presbyterian Church, but had a dramatic healing experience that changed her life and through her, many other lives.
This is how she told her story:

“I…was in very poor physical condition, being able to eat only very soft, especially prepared food. For more than a year I had been praying almost constantly, ‘God give me light’…

One day her whole being was completely flooded with a great light.
She said, “It filled me! It surrounded me! I was conscious of nothing but that intense…light!…I discovered that I had been instantly and completely healed. Tho’…I truly believe that the months and months of praying that I might receive light had been a preparation for the healing…”

Give me light.
What a simple prayer.
What a dramatic result.

Nona’s experience of light made her a beacon to others. She shared her healing experience and her belief that healing was possible for everyone and her encouragement proved to be a light in the darkness for many.
Nona heard about healing possibilities from a Mrs. Bingham who had experienced her own healing.
Nona was taking a class from Mrs. Bingham with 7 others when she experienced her dramatic breakthrough.
She went on to teach classes, lead churches, write books, speak at conferences, ordain other people to the healing ministry.
She kept the light shining, and encouraged others to do the same.

Joel Goldsmith wrote, “Everyone is here on earth but for one purpose…to show forth the glory of God…”
We greatly admire those who live into that purpose.
Jesus, for example.
He let divine glory shine through him. He gave so much hope, so much love, so much affirmation, so much empowerment, that people experienced dramatic healing in their lives.

Have you ever met someone who loved so generously, who cared so deeply, whose every word was saturated with goodwill and optimism that just being near them made you feel better?

I think people experienced that with the Buddha.
With Paramahansa Yogananda.
With Jesus.
Maybe with Amma, the hugging saint whose ministry really is to hug people all over the world.

I encountered that kind of empowering, healing love from a woman named Kay.
Rev. Kay wasn’t easy to define.
She had been Roman Catholic. She loved numerology, and angels, and Reiki.
She was an ordained Religious Science minister but she also taught A Course in Miracles and Urantia.
She had a jazz band in her worship service.
And she wasn’t afraid to grow, change, evolve.

Her marriage ended in her 50s, so she started working as a promoter in the entertainment industry. And then, she went to ministerial school.
At 60, she started her own church.
And she pastored that church for 32 years before retiring. Retirement lasted a year before she graduated to the next life experience.

She was so loving. Every person who approached her walked away thinking they were her favorite person in the world.
She never said anything mean about or to anyone, even when they were unkind.

Once someone crashed one of her religious education classes and accused her of leading people to hell. He said, “You’re doing the devil’s work!”
She answered, “Oh Darling, I’m just teaching love. If I’ve converted the devil to a message of love, I’ll put that on my resume.”

I called her after receiving a troubling diagnosis. I knew if anyone could help me go to peace instead of to pieces, it would be Rev. Kay.
I told her about my disappointing news.
Her immediate response was, “Oh Darling, that’s just information.”

And I’ve treated it as if it were just information ever since…And, I’m still here.

What a great light in my life Kay Hunter was. And sometimes, I’ll say or do something that I can see deeply touches someone else, I know that I’m passing on something I learned from her, and I smile.

Sometimes just doing what you do and doing it with love can prove to be a bright light in the world. There was a group of gay men who liked to sing evangelical music back in the 90s. They traveled all over Arkansas and Oklahoma and Texas going to churches of all sizes just singing for Queers who loved Jesus. One night they were giving a concert at a church and a frail looking person went up to one of them after the show and thanked him. He said to the performer, “Because of your show, I didn’t have AIDS for a couple of hours.”

Someone was transported past their own pain and fear for a couple of hours because a group of men, some of whom also were HIV+, decided to share their talent to uplift others. What a great light they were at time when light was needed.

The reading from Isaiah that we heard this morning begins,
“God declares: Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him…”

There is some debate about whether the writer was referring to himself, to his community at large, or to a future messianic figure. But in any case, we see a picture of a light bearer, someone who serves, who is held by God, who is God’s delight, and who carries God’s spirit, and whose faithfulness brings hope, healing and justice to a world in need.

Nona Brooks fits that description.
Buddha and Yogananda fit that description.
Jesus certainly fits that description.
Amma fits that description.
Sweet Rev. Kay definitely fit that description.

And we can, too. In fact, I bet each of you has at some time let your light shine so brightly that it changed someone else’s life. You may not know you did it, but someone owes you a big thank you just because you dared to be you in a world that desperately needed you to be you.

We celebrate Light today. And that includes the Light in you. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: YOU are the light of the world. And this is the good news. Amen.

I give thanks for the healing light of God.
God, give me light.
Let me be light in the world.
Amen.

Courage

On December 10, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Courage (Esther 4) Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins 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 Bhagavad Gita has God saying, “I am the Self that dwells in the heart of […]

Courage (Esther 4)
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

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 Bhagavad Gita has God saying, “I am the Self that dwells in the heart of every mortal creature…I am the beginning, the middle, and the end in creation…I am the divine seed of all lives. In this world nothing animate or inanimate exists without me. I am the strength of the strong. I am the purity of the good. I am the knowledge of the knower. There is no limit to my manifestations.”
This ancient, holy scripture from Hinduism tells us that God is everywhere. That everything is part of God. That we all have sacred value. That hope and peace and joy are always possible. That there’s not a spot where God is not. Why am I absolutely obsessed with the idea of omnipresence? Why do I remind you constantly that God is a loving presence that will never and could never let you go?
There are two reasons, really.

1. If it is true that God is omnipresent…and both reason and experience tell me that is the case, then we are never alone. We never have to face anything alone. We can never face anything alone. And so comfort, and peace, and assurance, and courage are available to us in every moment, because there’s not a spot where God is not.

2. If God is an omnipresent power, then we are never truly powerless. Even if we seem powerless over a particular problem, we nevertheless ask a Higher Power to restore us to sanity, and the power works. It is always available to us.

God’s will must be for God’s creation to flourish, and so when we pray, “Thy will be done” we are praying, “help us to experience peace and joy and fulfillment and hope and courage and wisdom and health and love and even miracles.”

I so want everyone, no matter what they are facing, to know they are not alone, and that miracles are possible. I know that fear keeps us from giving miracles a chance.

We don’t want to be disappointed if the magic doesn’t work. We don’t want to look foolish by being seen to hope for what other said was hopeless.

Early in my ministerial training, I was in the middle of the AIDS crisis, we all were. And we were praying for new meds, for people to beat individual opportunistic infections, for people to face their challenges with courage, for people who had been abandoned by families to feel loved all the same.

But one of my mentors prayed every Sunday…EVERY Sunday, “And God we continue to pray for a cure for AIDS.”
How naïve, I thought. We haven’t cured baldness or the common cold. How are they going to cure AIDS? Praise Jesus and Mary and a dozen other reliable souls that my self-insulating pessimism didn’t impact her. She prayed week after week for a cure.
There’s still no cure, but there are treatments and prophylaxis meds and people are living long, healthy lives with what was once considered a death sentence. She didn’t manifest a cure for AIDS, but she generated hope that I believe was life-saving for some people, and life changing for others. And so, now, a quarter of a century later, I am praying for a cure for AIDS. And I won’t stop until it happens.

In the fictional story of Esther a Jewish person who wasn’t out about her Jewishness was encouraged to come out to help rescue her own people.

How could she make a difference?
What if she got in trouble?
What if her courageous, faithful act failed?
But in the end, she fasted, she prayed, and risked everything to make a difference.
There were no guarantees, but she realized, If I try, it may or may not work; if I don’t try, nothing good will happen. So, better to try.

Was it foolish? Some would say so. Was it dangerous? Absolutely. But was it worth it to pray through, and give the miracle a chance? The author would have us believe the answer is yes.

In the story, there is a eunuch is also courageous. He is a messenger for Esther and Mordecai, and in an earlier chapter he’s Esther’s personal makeup artist. He risked getting some notes snatched or overdoing the Queen’s makeup and being scorned by the other eunuch cosmetologists. But Esther risked so much more. She risked her faith.

She risked it not working. She risked it not saving the day. She risked feeling like a failure if it didn’t pay off. And, in very real ways, she risked her life for her faith. It took courage to give miracles a chance.

I have prayed for people whose circumstances gradually improved. I have prayed for people whose circumstances got dramatically, incredibly, and almost instantly better. I have prayed for people who found strength to endure their trials, and blessings in spite of their trials, but who otherwise weren’t freed from their difficulties.

And I have prayed for people who didn’t seem to get anything other than the goodwill it took for me to utter the prayer.
We detach from the outcomes, but even not knowing how it will work out, we dare to give prayer a chance, trusting that something good will come of it.

We focus not so much on the trouble or dire predictions, but on the omnipresence of divine love…and we ask that presence to do something good.

Esther knew that her plan could get her in deep trouble, but she prayed up the courage and took the risk to come out, to use whatever influence or privilege she had to save others from peril.

The risk paid off in the fictional story, but that’s not even the point. The story could have ended with tears, and there still would have been a beautiful lesson about a woman who risked everything to give a miracle one more chance. That’s the prize…not that it worked out to her delight, but that she dared to try at all.

A woman with AIDS came to me one day (c. 1998), depressed. She had been fighting for her life for a long time, and she was discouraged.
She asked what was the point of keeping up the fight; I answered that the fight wasn’t over, so the winner hadn’t been declared yet. It could still be her. And, I added, even if she lost the fight, she could spend her final hours knowing she did everything she could for as long as she could, and she could take comfort in knowing that her courageous example surely inspired others to keep pushing forward. She did keep fighting and lived another dozen years.

And she was a hero to many. Don’t give up on miracles. My mother grew up believing nothing was worse than being gay. In 2015 she attended my wedding and next month is going on the Sunshine Cathedral cruise. Don’t give up on miracles.

12 years ago, this church was about $300k in the hole; today we own this property outright, have a world class staff, beautiful windows, live saving programs, and we end almost every year in the Black (be it ever so barely).

Don’t give up on miracles. I’ve experienced and offered forgiveness in the wake of behavior that was clearly unforgivable and found love and healing and restoration as a result. Don’t give up on miracles.

Summon the courage to hope for better days. I can’t promise you a miracle today…but I will promise you that it’s okay to hope for one, and I’ll promise you one more thing…I’ll hope with you.

Let’s have the courage to hope. Let’s hope together, and come what may, the hope itself will prove to be a great blessing. And this is the good news. Amen.

Deciding to Keep Our Eyes Open

On December 3, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Deciding to Keep Our Eyes Open Sunshine Cathedral First Sunday of Advent Habakkuk What a joy to be back at Sunshine Cathedral and see many familiar faces, and many new faces—including the wonderful windows in the sanctuary! It is especially lovely to be with you on this first Sunday of Advent—the beginning of the Christian […]

Deciding to Keep Our Eyes Open
Sunshine Cathedral
First Sunday of Advent
Habakkuk

What a joy to be back at Sunshine Cathedral and see many familiar faces, and many new faces—including the wonderful windows in the sanctuary! It is especially lovely to be with you on this first Sunday of Advent—the beginning of the Christian liturgical year.
I grew up Southern Baptist in Louisiana and we didn’t do Advent. We did do Vacation Bible School in the summer. [slide 1] And I am proud to say that I am a Vacation Bible School graduate! Are there other folks here today who went to Vacation Bible School (VBS)? I have to confess, I almost did not graduate. We had to memorize the books of the Bible to pass. I didn’t have a lot of trouble with the New Testament, but when it came to the Old Testament, those twelve little books at the end with all those names you can’t pronounce or spell, almost did me in.

In the Hebrew Bible these books are lumped together and called The Twelve. I wished I had known that back then. It would have saved me a lot of time and anxiety. Instead of memorizing the list: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. [slide 2] I could have just said, “and The Twelve.”

Habakkuk is one of The Twelve. He was a prophet during a very tumultuous time in Israel’s history. We heard it described in the reading from chapter 1: Destruction and Violence! Strife and contention! The law becomes slack and justice never prevails! Sounds like today’s headlines, doesn’t it? Habakkuk also asks, where is God in all this? How do we as God’s people, live in this tumultuous time? The answer comes in the second installment we heard from Habakkuk today: “the righteous live by their faith.”

What does it mean to live by faith in the face of injustice, violence, and anarchy? What is faith? [slide 3]
Some might say faith is what we believe about God. Churches and denominations often formulate their beliefs into a “statement of faith.” Others might say faith is about trust in God. Rather than trusting in a set of statements about God, one trusts in God. But as Habakkuk has asked, what do we do with our trust, when it is uncertain that God is listening?

Novelist Doris Betts [slide 4]claims that faith is not synonymous with certainty, rather it is a “decision to keep your eyes open.” Faith is a way of seeing. Did you notice it in Habakkuk? He asks, “Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble?” He decides to keep his eyes open by saying, “I will keep watch to see what God will say to me….There is still a vision for the appointed time.”
Faithful living in tumultuous times requires being present to what is. Too often we want to numb out, ignore or deny the destruction, violence and injustice in the world. Faith as a way of seeing doesn’t avoid harsh reality.

Living by faith in this season of Advent will have an apocalyptic dimension to it. That doesn’t mean we see harsh reality as signs of the end of the world. The work apocalypse means, “unveiling or lifting the veil.” Movements such as [slide 5] # BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, Time’s Up, and the Migrant Caravans challenge the faithful to make a decision to keep our eyes open. They are a “lifting of the veil,” an exposing, of the heresy of domination. Habakkuk said, “I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what God will say to me.” Faith is a way of seeing that looks for God in the ebb and flow of life. The faithful and apocalyptic message of Advent is that Jesus has “unveiled God” and the possibility for our participation in the divine life.

Habakkuk continues, “there is still a vision for the appointed time…if it seems to tarry, wait for it.” According to theologian Marcus Borg,[slide 6] faith is seeing the whole, and our response to it. Have you ever noticed in the New Testament when a healing encounter happened with Jesus, he often said to the person who was healed, “your faith has made you well.” Jesus saw something in them and responded—faith was that act of opening which released a flow of divine energy that made the healing possible. What I am suggesting here is that faith is not so much something we have, as something in which we participate. It has a generative quality about it. Jesus’ statement, “your faith has made you well” is an acknowledgement of the power of a transaction that occurred between him and the person being healed. A mutual recognition took place. The Hebrew word used for faith in Habakkuk is emunah which means “firm action.” When we can behold others with compassion and respond, we participate in a flow of divine energy that can bring a different kind of world into being.

Borg says faith is not a matter of the head but a way of the heart. This heart space is in the deep level of the self—deeper than our conscious self, below our thinking, feeling, willing, intellect, emotions or volition.

So how do we participate in this kind of faith? How do we cultivate a seeing of the whole with our heart? How do we stay mindful, present to reality with a compassion that releases divine energy into the world?

The best way I have found to do that is through contemplative practices and I want to talk about two of them this morning. The first one is, Pray the News. [slide7] Everyday we are bombarded with headlines from the news. They bling from our smart phones, ticker across our television screens and blare out from our radios. Praying the News is a way to cultivate faithful living by being present to what is. The way we do this is to make time everyday, to be present to the news. After viewing, hearing or reading the news, spend a moment of quiet reflection, letting your heart absorb the news stories you experienced. Let your heart direct you to a particular story. Spend some time praying for the people, circumstances and events of the story. Your prayers could certainly include people, nations, and nature involved in the events. Pray also for the “principalities and powers” the systems and structures that perpetuate violence, fear and injustice. Rather than praying to God about these events, be with God in these events. This kind of praying according to Walter Wink, believes a new world into being.

The second practice I want to mention is meditation. There are many ways to engage this practice. What is most important is that you spend time everyday dwelling in the heart space of your deeper self–deeper than your conscious self, (as Borg says) below thinking, feeling, willing, intellect, emotions or volition. Centering Prayer [slide 8] is one way to enter into that space. Find a quiet place to sit for 20-30 minutes everyday (twice if you can find the time). While you sit, choose a sacred word to focus your attention. The word might be “love,” “peace,” “grace.” As you settle into the quietness let your word be a symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within. If you find your mind wandering, gently return to your sacred word without any kind of judgment. You might want to imagine yourself at the bottom of a lake and wandering thoughts are like boats drifting by on the surface of the lake above you. Simply let them go by, do not attach yourself to them. Over time, this practice will expand your heart space for fuller communion with God and open compassionate seeing within you.

Habukkuk’s words about faith have had powerful influence over the centuries. The apostle Paul quotes them in his epistle to the Romans and when Martin Luther read them 1500 years later the Protestant Reformation was born. The writer of Hebrews quotes Habakkuk and lists the names of that great cloud of witnesses who have demonstrated such a faith, and I am sure we can add the names of those we remembered on World AIDS Day [slide 9]who lived such a life of faith. On this first Sunday of Advent, the “New Year’s Day” of the liturgical year, let us join our lives to their memory and say with Habakkuk, “I will exult in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; God makes my feet like the feet of a deer and makes me tread upon the heights.”

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