Divine Life Within Us

On July 14, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Divine Life Within Us Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Psalm 82 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. The psalmist imagines “our God” (Big Mama God) joining a conference of lesser gods […]

Divine Life Within Us
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Psalm 82

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.

The psalmist imagines “our God” (Big Mama God) joining a conference of lesser gods in the 82nd psalm. I wonder who those gods might have been.

Perhaps Apis was at the conference. Remember Apis, the bullgod of Egypt? The reason Moses got so upset when his people made a golden calf is because it was a representation of Apis, a god from the empire that enslaved them. They longed for a time of oppression and injustice, where some people were not treated as being fully human. They escaped that hardship, but still they longed for the good old days which of course, were not so good.

Apis, the face of being stuck in the past. I bet Apis was one of the gods at that imaginary conference. Some people worship the so called good old days.

Ninus, the Assyrian fishgod was probably there. Remember the story of Jonah? Jonah is supposed to go Ninevah, the shining city of the Assyrian empire, but he didn’t want to go into enemy territory. The Assyrians had conquered his people. He hated the Assyrians. But sometimes we are called to challenge the empire, or heal its victims, or negotiate for the release of its captives, or simply tell them there are better ways of existing in the world. Moses had to confront the Egyptian empire. Jesus stood up to Rome. Jonah had to go Ninevah.

He tried to get out of the assignment, but he was tossed out of the boat he was on going in the opposite direction of Ninevah, and when he hit the water, a big fish swallowed him up and took him to the shores of Assyria and spit him out. He had no choice but to walk to Ninevah. Ninevah was named for Ninus the fish god. A fish delivered Jonah to fish city. That’s good writing!

Ninus, then, can represent the evils, the atrocities, the cruelty of empire. Some people really admire empire, or benefit from it, and serve it unquestioningly.

Nike may have been there. Nike was the Greek goddess of winning. Winning at all costs. Winning even if you have to rig the game. Winning no matter who it hurts. Winning even when doing so might not be necessary or beneficial. Hostile takeovers, needless wars, character assassination, destroying someone to get your way..Nike, the goddess of winning was almost certainly at that conference.

Marduk was the national god of the Babylonian empire. Nationalism, which breeds racism and xenophobia and callousness and cruelty and distorted exceptionalism. We’re not talking about civic pride and selfless service to one’s homeland, but a sinful sense of superiority that demonizes and belittles other lands and cultures and peoples. Marduk, the god of sinful nationalism must have been there.

Moloch, the Canaanite deity whose primary sacrament was unbelievable cruelty. Moloch required child sacrifices. How much fear of that God was necessary to make families give up their children? How much was society desensitized that they turned a blind eye or even cheered as other people’s children were sacrificed? We still see children sacrificed today…sacrificed for being gay, or transgender, or for being refugess fleeing from lawless gangs or murderous regimes. Moloch was among the worst of the false gods, and his reign of terror has never really ended.

But then there is Elohim. That’s the name the Psalmist uses for the God that is above these petty, lesser, inadequate gods. English translations usually just call Elohim “God” but Elohim is the name the Psalmist used.

Some of our ancestors called God Yahweh, ”I will be what I will be“, or ”I am what I am”…I am, isness, the ground of being, the source of all.
Other ancestors called God Elohim. Elohim means gods, male and female, plural. And the Hebrew text says Elohim joined the council of elohim. Our god joined the council of other gods. If Yahweh is isness, Being itself, then I like to think of Elohim as the All-in-all. Plural, all genders, everywhere.

And at this imaginary conference of gods, the true God, Big Mama God, the all-in-all, the omnipresence that includes all life, says:
All of you elohim wannabes, let me tell you what Elohim is all about:
Giving justice to the weak and disenfranchised, fighting for the rights of the poor, rescuing the desperate and protecting them from exploitation and cruelty. That’s what Elohim should stand for.

And then, our Elohim adds, “all you lesser gods – Nationalism, Cruelty to children, Winning at all costs, Empire, Being stuck in the past…your days are numbered. You aren’t really real. You are all manifestations of fear, and fear is driven out by love. People worship you, but you are not god enough. It’s just a matter of time until you fall.”

And then the psalmist breaks character, and stops speaking for God to the lesser gods, and concludes with a prayer to the All-in-all, the power and presence of justice-love. The psalmist prays, “Rise up, Elohim, and help us fix the mess we’ve made of things.”

In other words, while we worship power and privilege and war and cruelty…will the real Elohim please stand up.
Will the God that is unconditional, all-inclusive, everlasting, omnipresent Love please be lifted up by those who claim to worship God? Because we need that better way, and we need it now.

Any god that doesn’t inspire compassion, generosity, goodwill, peace, hope…is simply not god enough. Any god that requires cruelty to LGBTQ+ people, or that sanctions apathy toward terrified, incarcerated children, or that values profits over people, or that does not demand compassion for the sick, the poor, and the marginalized, any such petty little god is just not god enough. The real god is All-in-all, and so it is that all people have innate dignity and worth and sacred value and ought to be treated as if we know that to be true.

There is an old story about a council of gods meeting. This story comes from the Hindu tradition. The gods decided they needed to hide the divine spark from humanity so that humans wouldn’t find it and become godlike themselves. One deity suggested they hide the divine spark on a high mountain, but the others said – No, eventually someone would climb the mountain and find it. Another deity said – Let’s bury in the ground, but No, another answered, someone would just dig and find it. What about hiding it in the sea, another god asked? But no, of course, someone would eventually dive and find it.
I’ve got it! One of the gods shouted. Let’s hide the divine spark in the human heart, that’s the one place they’ll never think to look for it.

The All-in-all is in all. All means all. All means me. All means you. All means Christians and Jews and Muslims and Sikhs and Hindus. All means gays and lesbians and bisexuals and pansexuals and asexuals and people who fit in and who are beyond gender binaries. All means all. Let’s dare to recognize the divine life with us. Isn’t that what the incarnation really is? Isn’t that what the Trinit symbolizes: God for us, God with us, God in us?

And if God is with and in us, God’s with and in everyone, in every community, in every situation, at every border. We will not let people go hungry, or be unfairly locked up, or be denied life saving medical care, or be demonized for who they love or how they pray when we remember that all people are filled with the very light and life of god. And this is the good news. Amen.

Dear God:
You are life & love.
You are wisdom, power, & presence.
We are part of you & blessed by you.
Help us to express your goodness.
Amen.

 

Working for the Good of All

On July 7, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Working for the Good of All Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Galatians 6.2-10 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. The Apostle Paul’s letter to a Galatian community is only 6 chapters […]

Working for the Good of All
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Galatians 6.2-10

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.

The Apostle Paul’s letter to a Galatian community is only 6 chapters long, and we heard from the final chapter this morning. The letter talks very frankly about anatomy. Paul had created a controversy in his circle by declaring himself the apostle to the uncircumcised. What? Who talks like that? The Apostle Paul.

Paul has recently gone to meet with a council of church leaders in Jerusalem headed by James, the brother of Jesus. The council members tend to agree with James that followers of Jesus should be or become Jewish, and for men, that will require circumcision.

Paul disagrees with them. So, he says Jewish members of the movement should honor their Jewish heritage and observe the traditions, but gentiles who want to follow the Jesus way shouldn’t have to observe every Jewish tradition, such as circumcision. He discerns that if men have to have elective surgery on their nether regions to join the movement, that’s going to be a deal breaker for a lot of guys.

Now, notice, religious people are arguing over people’s bodies. What should people do with their bodies? What should they not do with their bodies? Who is in charge of their bodies, specifically, their genitalia? Oh thank God we are so far beyond that today!

When Paul goes to Jerusalem he takes Barnabas and Titus for moral support, and he brags in Galatians 2 that even though Titus is an uncircumcised Greek, the council didn’t insist he be circumcised. And if Titus gets a pass, why require it of anyone?

Paul says also in chapter 2 that he thinks of Peter as the apostle to the circumcised and himself as the apostle to the uncircumcised.

Paul values his religious traditions, he just doesn’t think all of them have to be imposed on people from beyond his religious background who want to follow Jesus. Why set up a lot of roadblocks?

In chapter 4 Paul reminds the Galatians of the story of Abraham having a child with his slave, Hagar, and another child with his wife, Sarah.

Now, Paul doesn’t seem to realize that slavery is evil, or that Hagar was abused when she was forced by Abraham to have his child (a son whom he abandons when his wife finally conceives).

When people use the Bible to condemn women’s autonomy over their bodies, or transgender expression, or same-gender love and attraction, they seem to forget about Abraham having slaves, forcing one of them to be a surrogate mother for his wife (whom he earlier sold to a regional potentate and then reclaimed). And that’s before he attempted to murder the son that he didn’t abandon. It is ridiculous to use the Bible to condemn people. But I digress.

Paul uses the story of Abraham and Hagar and Sarah an allegory. He says those trapped in legalism and condemnation and religious rigidity are children of bondage, Hagar. But those who freely, joyously follow Jesus without all the fetters of legalism are children of freedom, of Sarah.

And then in chapter 5 Paul tells the Galatians, “For freedom Christ has set you free.”

Reject bondage (I’m not talking about your social life, that’s your business). Reject religious bondage, and embrace spiritual freedom.

And in verse 14 he says, “The whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

The people who use tradition and dogma to control, condemn, and exclude are missing the whole point. For freedom Christ has set us free, and instead of straining at gnats, just love yourself and loves others as much as you love yourself and you’ll be in good shape.

In verse 22 of chapter 5, Paul says, “the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such,” Paul says, “there is no law.”

You are not being faithful when you toss the Queer kid out of the house, or when you ignore the violence toward transgender people, or when you demonize desperate asylum seekers, or engage in Isalmaphobia…that isn’t faithful, it’s cruel, but the law of Christ is love of neighbor…welcome, compassion, kindness and there is no faithful reason to withhold compassion to the hurting or endangered, whoever they might be.

Paul says in chapter 6 as we heard today, “Bear one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Paul isn’t seeking doctrinal purity or compliance with tradition, he’s focusing on the law of Christ whose burden is easy and whose yoke is light. And what is the law of Christ?

Paul says it’s to bear one another’s burdens.
He says it’s to love your neighbor as yourself.
He later wrote to a house church in Rome, “…the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” The law is to LOVE.
His frenemy James said, “If you fulfill the divine law, which is ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.”
Jesus quoted the Torah when he said the greatest of all commandments were to love God and neighbor, and he told a story about people that you condemn or hate might be the best neighbors of all.
And of course we read in 1 John 4.16, “God is love and whoever lives in love lives in God and God lives in them.”

Legalism is usually just an excuse to beat up people, figuratively, and sometimes literally. But the law of Christ is love, compassion, kindness, justice, generosity. Bear someone’s burden and thus fulfill the law of Christ.

Paul tells us, “Let us not grow weary in doing good.” Indeed, he exhorts us, “Work for the good of all…especially your friends, but not just your friends.” Work for the good of all.

If someone tells us that they are afraid to come out,
or they are having doubts about God,
or they are marrying outside their faith,
or they are struggling with an addiction,
or they are battling depression,
or they are burdened by profound grief…they are not asking us for a bible verse, a lecture, or an opinion. They are asking us to hear them, to love them, to sit with them. They are giving us an opportunity to share their burden, not to add to it with our own bigotry and baggage.

People’s pain is not an opportunity to defend our beliefs;
their pain is an opportunity to help them bear their burdens.

“If the church were Christian,” a wise Quaker pastor tells us, “gracious behavior would be more important than right belief.”

If the church were truly following Jesus and his kin-dom of God message, we would bear the burdens of others rather than trying to add to them, we would love our neighbor while realizing all of God’s children are our neighbors; if the Church were following Jesus, it would work for the good of all.

And this church will; and this is the good news. Amen.

Dear God, as a disciple of Jesus I pray,
bless me to be a blessing.
Give me joy and peace,
And for the sake of your love,
give me the grace to share those gifts.
Alleluia!
Amen.

Celebrate Your Life

On July 2, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Celebrate Your Life Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Pride 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. It’s World Pride Weekend. It’s the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. I want to […]

Celebrate Your Life
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Pride 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.

It’s World Pride Weekend. It’s the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. I want to lift up heroes and history makers today, but our time is limited. I’ll mention a few, but oh so many will be missed today.

I wish I could tell you about St. Paulinus who wrote really steamy love poems to a dude named Ausonius, and I wish I could share the story of Wenceslaus (of xmas carol fame) and his “chamber page” Podivan.

I wish I could tell you the stories of Ss. Bacchus and Sergius, Ss. Perpetua and Felicity, St. Bernard of Clariveaux who wrote erotic poetry to an Irish bishop and who was buried with that bishop each wearing the others’ clothes (like buddies do).

I wish I could tell you about the Reverend Troy Perry who founded a church with an affirming outreach to LGBTQ people in 1968, the Metropolitan Community Church, 9 months before the Stonewall Uprising.

I wish I could mention Father John McNeill who was booted out of the Jesuits by Cardinal Ratzinger himself (later known as Pope Benedict). John was expelled for his advocacy of LBGTQ people. He himself was gay and is at rest in our columbarium here at Sunshine Cathedral.

I wish I could tell you about Pauli Murray who was the first Black woman priest in the Episcopal church. She was also a Queer person, and today she (or “they”) would probably identify as gender non-binary.

But I just don’t have the time.

But I will take the time to tell you about three people from the Stonewall era.

And so I lift up Marsha P. Johnson today. She was given the name “Michael” at birth but she was really Marsha.

Marsha moved from NJ to NYC when she was 17. She was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and with Sylvia Rivera, she co-founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries).

She was active in Act Up and she was there that night that the Stonewall Inn broke out in revolution.

Marsha died in 1992 after a hard life of fighting and activism. She was found in the river with a head wound. Her life is an embodiment of Jesus’ words: “Whoever accepts you also accepts me.”

And I lift up Sylvia Rivera today. Sylvia was named “Ray” at birth. That name didn’t fit at all. She was Sylvia.

Sylvia was abandoned by her father early in life, and her mother died when she was just three years old. She then lived with her grandmother who thought she didn’t act boyish enough. Apparently, when Sylvia (still known to her grandmother as Ray) came out of her room with a fully beat mug, that is, with a face adorned with makeup, Granny was not pleased.

Sylvia was living on the streets by age 11 and surviving as a sex worker. She was taken under the wings of older drag queens living on the streets. They may have saved her life.

For much of her life, Sylvia was housing insecure and she battled drug addiction. She was part of the Stonewall era and culture, but there was doubt about whether she was at Stonewall the night of the riots. Once when she told a reporter that she had been there that night, her best friend, Marsha P. Johnson just said, “Sylvia, you know you weren’t there.”

Nevertheless, Sylvia with Marsha cofounded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR).

Sylvia wound up working on the staff of MCC New York in their food sharing ministry!

Her friend and Pastor, Rev. Pat Bumgardner, loves to tell the story of Sylvia’s many foiled arrests. Repeatedly, when Sylvia would be arrested and the police would put her in the car, she would slide all the way over to the other door, get out and run away.

And Sylvia was the first transgender woman to have a portrait in the Smithsonian.
Her life is an embodiment of Jesus’ words: “Whoever accepts you also accepts me.”

And I lift up Storme DeLarverie today. Storme worked as a bouncer, a drag king, an MC, and a body guard. She was from the time when people like her were called dykes or butches. Those terms were used by her and by those who loved her.

Storme was bullied as a kid in New Orleans. When she could she moved to New York and lived there until her death in 2014.

Storme was at Stonewall. Indeed, she may have been the match that lit the powder keg.

Witnesses say that that night police arrested what they described as a butch dyke, and the woman complained that the handcuffs were too tight. Her response was a nightstick to the head, and then people said they kept seeing this bleeding, handcuffed woman running. She’s get away from the cops, they’d chase her down, she’d fight them off and run away and they’d apprehend her again. That happened several times. Finally, they did overpower her and physically toss her into the police wagon. That violent act, according to some, was what triggered the revolt. Also, some of the witnesses believed the amazon warrior to have been Storme DeLarverie. Whether or not it was her, she was there that night and part of the riot.

Actually, she denied it was a riot. She said, “It was a rebellion. It was an uprising. It was a civil rights disobedience. It wasn’t no damn riot.”

In her 80s, she roamed lower 7th and 8th avenues, looking into lesbian bars and hangouts to make sure no one was mistreating her “baby girls” as she called the younger generations.

Her New York Times obituary said, “She literally walked the streets of downtown Manhattan like a gay superhero.”
Her life is an embodiment of Jesus’ words: “Whoever accepts you also accepts me.”

Well, that’s the intro. Let me give you the sermon now.
Relax. It’s super short and it only has two points.

1. Celebrate your life. People have paid a high price, sometimes everything, so that we can. Oh there is more to do. The work isn’t over. But even as we work and wait and lift our voices and lift our prayers…let us celebrate who we are. Let’s celebrate our place in the rainbow diversity of creation. Let’s know and declare that we are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.

2. Care about others. In telling the story of Queer heroes we have also heard about issues of poverty, sexism, racism, violence, homophobia, transphobia, gender fluidity. We have heard of people who served church and society in silence and others who took to the streets. To tell the Queer story is to tell the human story and the human story continues to show the horrors of injustice, oppression, greed, and cruelty, and it also shows the healing power of courage, hope, generosity, and love.

We don’t get to just be concerned about whatever impacts us most directly…our lives and experiences overlap…if we want God’s LGBTQ+ children to be treated with dignity and respect, then we must want and demand the same for God’s refugee children, God’s food insecure children, God’s medically at risk children, God’s unjustly incarcerated children, God’s girl and women children whose bodily autonomy is threatened daily, God’s planet that really is experiencing deleterious climate change…Pride Sunday is a reminder that LGBTQ+ people and all people have sacred value…and it is a call for LGBTQ+ people to stand up for our rights, and for everyone else’s. As we accept the other, we accept Jesus and the kin-dom of God that he preached. And this is the good news. Amen.

God for us, with us, and in us:
We celebrate our lives today!
We give thanks for divine diversity.
Heal our hurts.
And help us to live with hope, love, and joy.
Alleluia!
Amen.

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can
take care of it!

Visit our friends!

A few highly recommended friends...