Feast or Famine

On March 24, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Feast or Famine 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. Some king throws a party but apparently doesn’t know anyone, so he invites the world and […]

Feast or Famine
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.

Some king throws a party but apparently doesn’t know anyone, so he invites the world and turns out, the world is busy. Then he gets an attitude.

After multiple attempts to get people to show up to his soiree (and some bloodshed along the way), finally, he gets a room full, only then to throw some dude out for not dressing well enough. Who could like this king?

The guy is not just asked to leave; he is tied up and told he’s being tossed into a dark place where light will never reach him (for showing up wrinkled or without a tie).
The attire and the darkness are probably metaphors (spoiler alert: they are totally metaphors) and we’ll get to them later.

The 21 chapters that lead up to chapter 22 in Matthew’s gospel are full of good news: Healing, feeding, forgiving, inclusion, hope, peace, generosity. So what’s up with today’s psychodrama?

To make it more perplexing, if we read just 22 verses ahead in the same chapter, we’d see Jesus saying the greatest commandments are to love God and love people. Just love.

But punishing people for not coming to your party isn’t love.
Violently tossing out an invited guest because they didn’t look right isn’t love.

But this is a parable and if we take it literally we’ll miss it entirely. Parables call for and require out of the box thinking.

In today’s parable, the people don’t trust the party host, but the host desperately wants to feed the people and give them joy, but they can’t believe the offer is genuine…they’ve been burned a time or two before, and so they resist the king or even put up a fight when he sends people to collect them.

Matthew imagines this is what it’s like for God: forever preparing beautiful feasts and endlessly begging people to enjoy them, but so many people not being able to trust the invitation, not believing they are welcome just as they are.

It’s like, Matthew has been telling us for 21 chapters that God is good and we are good and we are meant to enjoy sweet communion with God every moment, but as many ways as he’s tried to tell us that we are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake, some people are still saying, “That is just too good to be true.” They aren’t showing up to the party, or worse, they are even attacking those who are catering it.

It is worth noting that no matter how many times people refuse to come to the party, the host keeps sending out invitations. The invitation is delivered
by Jesus, by Krishna, by Sidhartha, by Lao Tzu,
by Amma, by Mother Teresa, by Father Richard Rohr,
by Nona Brooks, by Paramahansa Yogananda,
by Louise Hay, by Bishop Barbara Harris,
by Bishop Yvette Flunder, by Thich Nhat Hanh, by the Hebrew prophets, by us!

God will never stop calling us to wake up to who and whose we really are.

So what about that “few are chosen” statement? What’s up with that? I’m glad you asked.
Our contemporary ears might hear it more easily if it could be stated like this: “Everyone is part of God, but we tend to be slow to wake up to that fact.”
Everyone is invited to wake up to our magnificence, but we’re not all fully awake yet.

And what about the garment? It’s not about fashion.

Clean garments represent righteousness, that is, the work to make the world a more just and peaceful place.

The host begs and begs and begs people to come to the party, to realize they are made of starlight and joy, that they are part of a creation that is very good, that they are animated with God’s own breath.
Come to the party! Please! Live in the joy of this banquet.

And, once you wake up to who you are, get to work to help others wake up.

The garment that isn’t appropriate suggests someone who gets that they are okay, but they aren’t interested in helping others know it too. So, they aren’t really experiencing the light fully. They think that because they didn’t have to earn the seat at the table, they don’t have to make room for others. But that means they don’t really understand what the party is about. There in the dark about it.

The darkness isn’t punishment, it’s a false perception…it’s lack of awareness that there is not a spot where God is not.

Matthew’s Jesus is saying, “Please come. And, once you’re here, get involved. Help us help others know what we are learning…that we are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.”

St. Paul put it this way in letter to the Galatians: “You who were baptized in Christ have clothed yourselves in Christ.”
The wedding garment is about putting on our Christ clothes – our healing, helping, hope sharing outfits.

Worship weekly, pray daily, give generously, volunteer, come to our shows or tell people about our groups, take one of our classes, join our justice work, participate in our efforts to reach more people with more good news.

You can’t do it all, but you can do something and your doing something is going to help someone else get a glimpse of light within them that they didn’t know was there.

That’s what it means to wear the appropriate garment. Come to the party ready to help other people come to the party.

A narrow reading of today’s story makes it look like a choice between feast or famine…accept the invitation, or get forever abandoned; and, even if you accept the invitation, you might still be rejected. But that understanding rejects the larger witness of love and inclusion that Matthew has been sharing throughout his gospel. So today’s parable can’t be about who’s in and who’s out…that isn’t good news.

This story, like all of the gospel, is about including everyone, getting them involved, and thereby helping them discover and share the light that has always been theirs.

First, trust the invitation to the party really is for you.
Second, show up dressed to pass on the blessings you’ve received so others will know the party is for them, too.

You can do that in a tank top, in leather, in sweat pants, in a tuxedo, in a sundress and sneakers…it’s not about the clothes, it’s about the commitment to love yourself more and then to love others as you love yourself.
When we do that, as Matthew’s Jesus says in the sermon on the mount, we are the light of the world.

And this is the good news. Amen.

Thank you, God, for your feast of love.
Thank you for including us all.
Thank you for calling us to welcome others.
Thank you the light that shines within us.
Alleluia!
Amen.

Divine Abundance

On March 17, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Divine Abundance 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. Matthew 20 can be a difficult passage. I mean, just imagine: If I hired Twila at $10 […]

Divine Abundance
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.

Matthew 20 can be a difficult passage. I mean, just imagine:
If I hired Twila at $10 an hour for a day’s work and she worked 8 hours, that’s $80 she’s due.

If I hired Tara, same wage, but she works 6 hours, and I hire Anne who works 4 hours….we all know how that should shake out. Twila gets $80, Tara gets $60, and Anne gets $40.
If i decide to be generous and give them all a $10 bonus – great, then Twila gets $90, Tara gets $70 and Anne gets $50.

But if i get a wild hair to pay them all $80, that’s kind of kick in the shin to Twila.
Anne and Tara may be thinking, “Sweet!” But it’s hard to make the case that I’ve been fair to Twila.

And this scenario is our gospel lesson today and I’m supposed to do something with it. I should get a bonus for that!

Jesus weaves a tale today that teaches two lessons.
The first is, is treat people better.
The second is, God’s love really is all-inclusive and unconditional.
He does this by making up a story about day laborers, a notoriously exploited group since time immemorial.

Day laborers are often treated like fire wood, used as fuel that burns up quickly and is easily replaced.
So from the moment we hear that someone is looking for day laborers, we already are feeling a little uneasy.

A landowner hires some people, and the some more, and then some more.
Then, after everyone has done their work for the day, the employer makes a point of letting them all know that they are getting paid according to his whim and not their work.

Why was he so messy about announcing everyone’s wages? He could have paid them and said nothing and most people would have never been the wiser. He has intentionally stuck his finger in Twila’s eye, and for what?

Twila complains. She’s like, “WTH, man?!”
He tells her to dummy up. He can do as he likes.

Finally, we hear the last are first and the first are last…is that meant to shut up Twila, or is it foreshadowing…You see, the first person mentioned in the story is the landowner. He’s first; will he wind up last? Is Jesus saying that the current power holders who play games with our lives won’t always be in charge? Those who are in charge now will one day be last.

See…it’s tricky. If the story is about our world, then it seems to be chastising the landowner, and is therefore a call to social and economic justice.

But this parable is a double edged sword. The very first line of the reading tells us that this parable is meant to describe God’s Realm.

We aren’t talking about the ways of the world. We are talking about God’s realm. In the world, there are always struggles between deeds, needs, and greed. We have to work for fairness and equity.

But God’s realm isn’t exactly fair. Fair would mean people would get what they deserved (or at least what they needed to live with dignity), but in God’s realm, grace, not merit or even need, is the the measurement used. Grace – unmerited, unearned, absolutely free favor.

God’s realm is like the family of the prodigal son. One son stayed home and was a good boy, the other son wasted his inheritance and came crawling back and was received warmly. The good son was like, WTH, man?! But the parents said, “you’ve always had it all. Your brother forgot who he was and lived in needless separation. We are just happy that he now remembers what you’ve always known…he can’t be lost, forgotten or denied.”
No child of God can be lost, forgotten, or denied.

That’s the real lesson. God gives all to all because God is all in all.
That’s divine abundance. It’s not as much about stuff as it is about the peace and joy that comes from knowing we are forever one with God. Its the allness of God in which we all share.

Transgender people, you are in and of God, forever.
Same-gender loving people, you are in and of God, forever.
Migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees, you are in and of God, forever.
LGBTQ United Methodists, you are in and of God, forever.
The 49 Muslims in NZ who were killed during their time of prayer and worship were and are in and of God, forever.
Our loved ones, including Bishop Grant Lynn Ford who made his transition yesterday, are in and of God, forever.

If you’ve been told that you had to earn God’s favor with creed or coin, then I urge you to reject that mess for the lie that it is. You are forever part of an everlasting omnipresent love; please let nothing ever take that blessed assurance from you.

The 8 hour laborer who has spent her whole life in church, The 6 hour laborer who found religion after college and became Jewish, The 4 hour laborer who thought religion was silly until in midlife when she discovered and started to practice Buddhism, The 2 hour laborer who has found sobriety and salvation late in life and in religion but in a 12 Step Program…
One and all are embraced fully by the Love that we call God. That’s what the story is telling us today.

There are well-meaning folk, themselves victims of oppressive theologies, who insist that you must do this, or believe that, or reject those in order to be embraced by God, that you must earn God’s acceptance by accepting the theology they are peddling.
Sometimes they‘ll try to seal the deal by saying, “You’ll have a long time in hell to figure out how wrong you are.”
But hear this: a threatening gospel is no gospel at all.
I will never reduce my faith to fire insurance.

God is all loving and omnipresent…So God is the Love that is everywhere; it will not and cannot let us go, not in this life or beyond. I worship not to appease an angry God, but because I know God to be my life, and I worship in community because in the presence of God-filed people I find encouragement and hope and joy.

God is what I call the life, love, wisdom, power, and presence that fills the universe and beyond; it is the one presence and the one power and it will never and can never reject anyone for any reason.

A god who simply gives all that God is to all of us all the time…I believe that is the point of today’s parable. And this is the good news! Amen.

I cannot earn God’s love,
Nor can I lose it.
God gives abundantly.
I receive God’s grace gratefully.
Alleluia!
Amen.

Forgiveness

On March 11, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Forgiveness Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

Forgiveness
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

We Are All Chosen

On March 5, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

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