How Great We Are

On May 29, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

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How Great We Are
Rev Anne Atwell


Letting God Be More

On May 29, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

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Letting God Be More
Rev Anne Atwell


We Are Part of God

On May 29, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

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We Are Part of God
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Easter 6 (2019)

Let us dwell together in peace, 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 are the children of God. The omnipresent love that is the source of all that is, can never release us. We are God’s self-portraits some have said. We are part of God.

But when did you first realize that?
When did you first consider that God believes in you?
When did you adopt the idea that you are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake?

We make mistakes. But our mistakes cannot separate us from God.

The writer of Deuteronomy imagines God going on a bit of a rant because people forget who they are, and where they came from…people forget they have sacred value, that they are children of God.
The writer was frustrated about that and projected those frustrations onto God, but even in mid-rant, the writer has to admit: “You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.”

God is portrayed as a Rock and a birthing mother in one sentence, and to similar effect.
You were carved from the divine rock.
You were born of the divine mother.
You are part of God.

Isaiah wrote, “Listen to me, you who pursue justice, who seek the LORD; look to the rock from which you were hewn…”

The sculptor sculpts from sacred substance.
The Creator, the creative action, and the creation are all one.
The Rock, the Substance, is the maker and the stuff from which we are made.
Look to the rock from which you were hewn.

That’s what St. Paul was telling a house church in Rome.

In Rome, adoption was pretty common. But adoption didn’t make you an heir. That took something more.
Julius Caesar adopted his nephew. His nephew was already related to him, part of his family, but he adopted him, making him a son. But then, he went further, and made his nephew/adopted son, his heir and his heir later became Caesar Augustus.

Using topics from the news and recent history, using language that the Romans would have been familiar with, Paul says that we are children of God.

But not all children are heirs, not in Paul’s time.
Augustus was a nephew, then a son, then an heir.
But Paul makes the case that being God’s children makes us all heirs. God has not only created us, but God has chosen us, and wishes to lavish us with joy. All of God’s children are heirs of God’s goodness.

If we see something of God in Jesus, if see a divine spark in Jesus, we can know that it’s in us too…we are co-heirs with Christ!

Adoption here isn’t to suggest that we weren’t part of God and at some point God let us join the family…no, the point is that we are all children of God, and unlike other families of the time, in God’s family all children are heirs. We all get it all. When we adopt a theology of omnipresence, we discover that all that God is, is available to us.

Now, we may need to unpack the last sentence in the reading today.
Where we’re told we are joint heirs “if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”

Oh, the doomandgloomers have squeezed that one almost dry, haven’t they?
But remember, the good news is the bad news is wrong.

I think what Paul is saying…Paul who used to torment Christ followers and who has become one who is tormented for being a Christ follower, is telling people that to follow Jesus involves risk and even sacrifice, but the joy that it offers makes the perils worth it all.

God isn’t requiring that we suffer, but God, divine Love, does require that we speak up for the suffering, that we reach out to the suffering, that we confront injustice and lend aid to the hurting and advocate for the marginalized, and when we do that, the keepers of power and privilege will often try to punish us for it.

God doesn’t want anyone to suffer, which is why we are called to respond to suffering.
It is in Jesus’ name that we mourn children in cages, that we are compelled to cry out when trans women of color are murdered, that we insist that healthcare should be a right and not a privilege, that we insist that it is love that makes a family.
It is for the sake of divine love that we dare to pray in the name of the prince of peace, no more war.

God wants all the suffering to be relieved, but what God does for us, God through us. We are God’s hands, and when we do what we can to bring hope and healing to the world, there is sometimes a price to pay. Paul says, do it anyway. There may be some peril, but it pales to the glory of being Christ’s healing body in the world today.

One more thing for us to consider today.
WE are part of God. Not just me, but we.

Me religion is not the gospel. The gospel includes me, but it’s for we.

Lots of people believe God approves of them or that God is on their side, but then they go off the rails and decide that if God loves them, then God can’t love those who differ from them.
God loves me – I don’t care for you – ergo, God has no use for you.

But remember, the good news is the bad news is wrong.
They got the first bit right…God loves them.
What they need to learn is that God loves everyone else as much.
God is love and is the rock from which we are hewn…we are forever part of God. God will never abandon anyone for any reason.

We need to remember that God’s healing, transforming love is a we thing.

Transwomen are being mowed down regularly, while churches argue over décor.

40% of queer youth wind up at one time or another on the street, while denominations split over whether or not gay children are God’s children. (Spoiler alert: they are).

We can’t even wrap up a war before threatening to launch another, while we complain about matters of personal taste and preference (in our politics, in our neighborhoods, in our worship).

When religion becomes “me” rather than “we”…we’ve lost the plot.

But it’s not that hard to get back. Worship is how we practice how we wish to live.
We come together and practice being gracious, being generous, being forgiving, being supportive, being encouraging, being healers…because that’s how god’s love is made manifest among us. We practice being our better selves on Sunday, so that we have more hope and love to share during the week. We all need the practice, and thank God, we come together and we do practice and we grow and we are transformed and we become healers for our world.

Following Jesus is a “we” – not a “me” thing.
That is neither politically nor religious popular these days, but as Paul said, there are some risks. Take them, because they pale in comparison to God’s love being experienced and shared.

God is the god of gays, of Muslims, of Jews, of Christians, of refugees, of transgender folk, and of every single person you can imagine.
We are children, and heirs, and joint heirs with Christ.
We. Not just me. All of us.

We are all hewn from the same divine rock, by the same divine sculptor, who adores us all, forever.
And this is the good news. Amen.

Divine Presence,
I am always in and part of you.
I am an heir of your goodness.
We all are.

God Doesn’t Play Favorites

On May 6, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

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God Doesn’t Play Favorites
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Easter 3 (2019)

Let us dwell together in peace, 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.

Rachel Held Evans was a progressive Christian in the Bible Belt. She was a writer who explored spiritual themes.
A couple of weeks ago, Rachel went to the hospital with flu symptoms. She had an allergic reaction to the meds they gave her, and she was placed in an induced coma. Yesterday morning, Rachel Held Evans, 37 year old wife and mother, died.

I want to read you something Rachel wrote, so if you were not familiar with her before you can be blessed at least once by her progressive christian witness.
She wrote:

“If you are looking for [bible] verses to support slavery, you will find them; if you are looking for verses with which to abolish slavery, you will find them.
If you are looking for verses with which to oppress women, you will find them; if you are looking for verses with which to liberate or honor women, you will find them.
If you are looking for reasons to wage war…[or] to promote peace, you will find them…This is why there are times when the most instructive question to bring to the text is not ‘what does it say?,’ but ‘what am I looking for?’…
If you want to do violence in the world, you will always find the weapons. If you want to heal, you will always find the balm.”

In these human words, God’s voice is heard.

Rachel tried to open the word of faith to people who had been excluded, wounded, demoralized, or heartbroken by the misuse of religion.

Rachel believed in grace, in love, in compassion. Sadly, there are still far too many people who wield influence and power who use religion as a poison gas to choke the joy out of those who don’t fit into their boxes. And that, interestingly enough, is what our scripture reading discourages today.

Acts 10: Cornelius loves God. He’s not a member of the faith community, but he prays and he’s very generous with good causes. But he’s not “in” the religious community. He’s still on the edges of it. Why hasn’t he joined? Maybe it would get him in trouble with his job as a Centurion. Maybe he doubts he’d be fully welcome. Maybe the requirements to join are too onerous. For whatever reason, he’s not all the way in…yet.

But he’s giving, and praying, and trying to serve in the ways he can.

And he gets a clear vision. He is clearly told to connect with Peter. No guessing, no riddles, not funky symbols…just a directive…reach out to Peter. Cornelius, the person not in the religious club, had a direct line to God. How about that?

Peter, a religious leader, he also has a vision…but he can’t figure it out. It wasn’t as clear as Cornelius’.
A blanket with a bunch of animals falls out of the sky and a voice tells him barbecue up one of the animals that Peter doesn’t think are edible. In fact, his religious training tells him those animals are unclean. He has religious reasons to reject those animals. So he refuses.

Peter hears from God. God tells Peter to do a thing, and Peter says, “I don’t think so.”

God tells Cornelius to reach out to Peter, and Cornelius says okie dokie.
God tells Peter to throw some meat on the grill, and Peter says, “You can’t make me.” Who’s open to God in the story so far?

Cornelius saw, heard, and responded.
Peter saw, heard, and refused.

Of course, Peter’s vision of food wasn’t about food. Once he see’s Cornelius’ messengers, he understands that the barbecue blanket symbolized people he had judged to be unworthy or unclean. But God made them. They were part of the creation that God calls very good. What God has made, what God has blessed, you don’t get to call unclean. No one is rejected by God.

Peter accepts Cornelius’ invitation to visit. If we had continued reading we would have seen Cornelius welcoming Peter warmly and honoring him.

Cornelius is generous.
Cornelius has an active prayer life.
Cornelius responds to the promptings of God.
And Cornelius has been gracious to a man who without out divine intervention might have judged him to be unworthy.

Peter will ask what Cornelius wants from him, and Cornelius says, “Just preach.”
Cornelius wanted good news. Cornelius wanted to hear that he was God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.
He wanted to hear that there’s not a spot where God is not.
He wanted to hear that God is a loving Presence that will not and can not reject him for any reason. What do you want Cornelius? What do you need? I just need to hear some truly good news.

And Peter starts to preach for Cornelius and his household. And while Peter was speaking, the story tells us, the holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and his loved ones. The power, the glory of God fell on them. They weren’t members of the religious movement. They weren’t considered by some to be worthy. But Cornelius was generous, and gracious, and responsive, and when he heard the good news he longed for, the power of God fell on him and Peter took notice.

Those people…them….those Roman pagans, those military types, those outsiders, those foreigners, those queers, those gender non-binary folk, those people who call God some other name, those people who look or sound or pray or love or speak differently than we do…THOSE PEOPLE have been touched by the holy Spirit, the spirit of wholeness, the spirit of goodness, the glory of God. Whodathunk?

The story concludes by saying that those people were then baptized in the name of Jesus…that is, they were welcomed, just as they were, the way Jesus would have welcomed them. They were immersed in the good news that God is love, and that love leaves no one out.

God loved Cornelius from the start.
Cornelius was open to God from the start.
It was Peter, it was the church that had to learn to open up and be a bit more welcoming, more inclusive, more affirming of different kinds of people.

God doesn’t play favorites. God’s love embraces us all, unconditionally, and forever.

The church is still learning that lesson. We aren’t here to spread hate and fear and condemnation; we are here to get over that pettiness and see the light of God in every life and welcome the world in the name of Jesus.
We are here to affirm the sacred value of all people.
We are here to offer good news, and the good news is that the bad news is wrong.

We are here to proclaim tirelessly…whosoever will, may come, because you are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake. And this is the good news. Amen.

There is good for me and I ought to have it.
I am God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.
All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.