It’s Always Time for a Miracle

On August 25, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

It’s Always Time for a Miracle Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Luke 13.10-17 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. Dt. 5 tells us that rest and prayer are important for our […]

It’s Always Time for a Miracle
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Luke 13.10-17

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.

Dt. 5 tells us that rest and prayer are important for our mental, spiritual, and even physical well-moving.

Dt. 22 tells us that when we see a need, we ought to do what we can about it.

One truth doesn’t negate the other.
Sabbath rest, a day of worship, prayer, relaxation, focusing on spirit rather than just on making money or completing tasks is important, but its important because it contributes to the wellbeing of human lives. It should never be the reason we ignore people in pain.

Dt. 5 says take care of yourself.
Dt. 22 says help others.
It’s both/and spirituality rather than either/or religion.

In the gospel lesson today, we see Jesus helping a woman on the Sabbath. She was hurting. She was weighed down with pain, burdened by grief, bent over with despair. For 18 years she had been looking down, feeling down, and Jesus lifted her up.

The religious gatekeepers used religion to control and restrict.
But the spirituality of Jesus says there’s not a spot where God is not.
The spirituality of Jesus says there’s not a place beyond God’s grace.
The spirituality of Jesus says there’s not a time that not’s sublime.
NOW is the point of power.

Religion often says you can’t; but spirituality says that all things are possible.
Religion has said that you are broken; but healthy spirituality says you are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake!

Religion said Jesus shouldn’t care for this woman on the Sabbath. Healing is work, and you can’t work on a day of rest. But Jesus knows that rest is for our health, and so helping this woman reclaim her life is the actual purpose of the Sabbath.

Religionists wanted to use religion to tell Jesus what he could not do; but Jesus thought spirituality was meant to heal, empower, uplift.

Religion is too often weaponized to keep people from experiencing hope or joy, but love of God should lead to love of neighbor, and love of neighbor is how best to show love for God.

Jesus saw a neighbor in need of love, and he loved her. That’s worship.
Fear of religious condemnation could have silenced him, but he chose love. He chose love over fear, and that’s a miracle.
When and where love is needed is when and where it ought to be shared. It’s always time for a miracle.

“There appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.”

This story resonates with me very strongly. My mother had difficulty conceiving and carrying children to term. Her doctor gave her medication to help her carry a child to term. The medicine was known to cause certain problems. I was born with spinal birth defects, possibly the result of that medication.

Prayer, pain killers, muscle relaxers, massage, chiropractic, a walking cane, even injections are all well known to me. In the last few years I have developed recurring bouts of super painful sciatica. I always recover, and in between flareups I live an active, happy life.
Every time I can’t stand up straight, or need a cane to walk, or need 15 minutes to exit my bed…I think of this story.

My grandmother had osteoporosis. My mother earlier this year fractured a couple of vertebrae. Back pain…my own and others, has been part of my life all my life. But I don’t think this story is about medical issues. For medical issues, see medical professionals. Of course, pray also. I aways say, Say a prayer and take a pill, if one doesn’t work the other will.

But the gospel story doesn’t say this woman was born with back troubles, and it doesn’t say she sustained an injury. The story says, “She had a spirit” that kept her from holding her head up high.

How did Jesus help her with the spirit, the attitude, the outlook, the feelings that caused her to be bowed low? He did three things:

He saw her.
He called to her.
He extended a healing touch.

In other words,
He noticed her.
He spoke to her.
And he reached out to her.
And when he did these things, she was uplifted. She stood tall. She held her head up. She was renewed.

There are people today who are hurting.
They are having trouble holding their heads up.
They are ashamed.
They are afraid.
They are lonely.
They are exhausted.
They are bereaved.
They need a miracle. They need to have their fears healed by love.
What can we do?

We can notice them.
We can speak to them.
We can reach out to them.

If they are hungry,
If they are housing insecure,
If they struggle with depression,
If they lack access to medical care,
If they are lonely,
If they have been abandoned by faith, family, or friends, If they are targeted because of their heritage, If they are having their civil rights threatened, If they are demonized or dehumanized, If they are bullied because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, If their very bodies are used as political and ideological battle grounds, If their existence is used to fuel political hatred or religious rejection…

They need a miracle, and we can offer that miracle by simply standing on the side of love.

We can see them.
We can speak words of hope and care to them.
We can reach out to them.

There is a world of people bowed down with suffering, and religion is often used to perpetuate their suffering. Thank God for “a different kind of church.”

Like Jesus, let us counter religious abuse with spiritual liberation, and let us offer the love that will help lift people’s spirits and allow them to hold their heads up high.

This is the gospel message, which is to say, this is the good news. Amen.

God heal our fears.
God heal our deepest wounds.
May we be uplifted.
And may we uplift others.
Alleluia!
Amen.

Learning What to Look For

On August 18, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Learning What to Look For Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Luke 12.54-56 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. Strange gospel reading today. ”When you see clouds, you know rain is coming; […]

Learning What to Look For
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Luke 12.54-56

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.

Strange gospel reading today.
”When you see clouds, you know rain is coming; and when there is a south wind you can expect warm weather. Why can’t you read the signs of the of socio-political climate?”

As odd as that is as a sacred reading, it’s stranger still if we back up a bit.
Luke 12.49 – Jesus says, “I came to bring fire to the world.”
12.51 – “Do you think I have come to bring peace?
12.52 – “from now on communities and families ill have a lot of conflict.”
12.54 – 56 – “you can read the weather, why can’t you tell what’s going on in the world?”

But this is the gospel. It’s supposed to be good news.
What’s this talk about fire and conflict and a finger wag for not being aware of what’s happening around us?

The news realy is good, though it does come with a call to action. The good news is that when we do good we make a difference. But yes, we have stuff to do. We must see what needs healing, and offer love as a medicine to bring the healing. We must learn what to look for, and how to respond to what we find.

Luke imagines Jesus saying that he came to bring fire; and a living faith will fire us up.
The fires of biblical myths provide guidance, like when the children of Israel followed a pillar of fire by day, or they prove resilience like when three young men survive a fiery furnace in the book of Daniel.
Fire can symbolize the divine presence as when Moses heard from God in a burning bush, and fire can cleanse, consume, and purify negativity, as when the apostle Paul shook off into a fire a viper that had fastened itself to his hand on Malta.
Fire is also empowerment as tongues of flame danced in the air at Pentecost.

When Jesus says he wants to bring fire, he’s saying he wants to bring healing, joy, dedication, resilience, wisdom, renewal.

And when he says he’s not here for peace…remember when the passage is written. The Roman Empire prided itself on its Pax Romana…the Roman Peace.

Rome’s peace wasn’t about harmony, goodwill, and justice. Rome’s peace was domination, intimidation, a lack of resistance because people were too afraid to make their voices heard. Luke’s Jesus says he’s not here for that kind of so-called peace.

Jesus is here to proclaim the kin-dom of God.
The non-kingdom.
The anti-empire.
A world where peace and justice and goodwill and compassion are valued and promoted. Such a vision doesn’t accept violence, and doesn’t allow oppression and injustice to go unchallenged.
God’s kin-dom is at odds with, in conflict with systems of oppression.

Jesus isn’t here to embrace the Pax Romana, but to show that its so-called peace is really just privilege for a few at the expense of the many.
To call that out will likely rock the boat, step on some toes. And it’s what Jesus did.

Luke’s Jesus is saying, “I came to fire you up for the kin-dom of God, which stands as a clear alternative to the domination of empire, and resistance to empire can prove to be contentious.” But it’s needed.

Being healers in the world requires us to see what needs healing, and it requires that we stand up for the marginalized, that we care for the broken hearted, that we work for justice, that we affirm the sacred value of all people, that we welcome the stranger, and that we speak out when there is cruelty and oppression.
You can see when rain is coming, why can’t you see that? (says Jesus).

The gospel lesson isn’t so strange after all, and it is good news. It’s telling us to look for goodness, and to express goodness in our hurting, fearful, hate wounded world.

If we will resist oppression, affirm the dignity and sacred value of all people, welcome the stranger, love the unloved, care about the hurting, challenge domination and oppression when we see it…then we can be healers in the world, we can help the world be better, we can usher in the kin-dom of God…the non-kingdom, the anti-empire, the realm of compassion, hope, and goodwill. It is a call to action, and when we answer it, it changes the world.

We are trying to answer the call…to look for and share goodness.
The Prophet Jeremiah reminds us today that divine goodness fills the earth…and we are the earth’s stewards. It’s up to us to see and share the goodness throughout the world.

With every bag of groceries we give,
with every support group that meets,
with every prayer said,
with every referral to a service agency, with every outcry against racism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia, with every prophetic or pastoral proclamation, with every dollar raised for ministry, with every dollar shared justice work or AIDS services, with every artistic performance that brings people together to celebrate life and joy, with every cathartic tear and every belly laugh, with every hug and smile, with every celebration of same-gender love, non-binary gender expression, and interreligious relationships, with every effort made to bless the orphan, the bereaved, the exile, the refugee, the unfairly imprisoned, the abused, the neglected, the forgotten, with every affirmation of omnipresent goodness, with every declaration of the all-inclusive, unconditional, everlasting love of God, with every sermon that says you are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake…
we are showing ourselves to be a different kind of church, an expression of the kin-dom of God, a healing light for the world.

And this is the good news. Amen.

Today I will look for goodness everywhere.
I will look for goodness within myself.
I will express goodness.
I am a healer in the world.
Thanks be to God
Amen.

Faith

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

Faith Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Hebrews 11 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. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. I have heard […]

Faith
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Hebrews 11

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.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

I have heard so much bad theology based on that line.
I had a friend who sold Cadillacs in the 80s in the Southwest. In my friend’s town there was a famous preacher who used to tell people that they should spend money as if they had it even if the bank account was empty. Their faith would provide the needed funds. Especially, the preacher added, if they tithed to his ministry. So, give a real check to his ministry, then write a faith check to someone else, andGod would magically cover all the transactions. My friend said faith checks were bouncing all over Tulsa and many a Cadillac was repossessed because the finance company didn’t care about faith checks as much as actual, legal tender.

Now, you and I both know that churches need money to do ministry and I want you to give generously, consistently, and joyfully as a spiritual practice and because you believe in the work of this church. But I don’t promise you anything other than good work and possibly a good feeling for your contributions. I believe most tithers feel blessed, but stewardship isn’t a cosmic lottery. Give for the love of giving, and for the hope of a Cadillac.

Faith isn’t magic.
Faith isn’t uncritical acceptance of dogma.
Faith is, very simply, trust.

But the anonymous writer of the epistle to a Hebrew community is specifically referring to trust in a divine presence.
That’s it. The writer is asking us to trust that there’s not a spot where God is not.
The writer is asking us to trust that God is all-inclusive, unconditional, everlasting love, a love that will not and cannot let us go.

The writer is not promising us Cadillacs or wish fulfillment. The writer is trying to assure us that no matter what happens, in good times and bad times, God is with us as a loving presence.

When things look terrible, faith tells us that the unseen God is real and is with us and isn’t leaving us alone with our disappointments and hurts.

Faith is the evidence that God is with us, not matter what is happening in our lives.

The writer brings up heroes from various legends and myths of the religious tradition. He interprets and applies them awkwardly, but what he is pointing out is that the heroes of sacred story were all on journeys. They faced the unknown, they faced difficulties and disappointments, some of them had grand visions that were not realized in their lifetimes, but they were faithful because they trusted that God was with them on the journey and would be forever. And where God is, joy is always possible.

We can’t control every situation in life.
We can influence many of them, we can choose how we respond to them, and we can trust that there will be joy on the journey, and that the journey is leading us forward into realms of infinite possibilities.
Don’t write a faith check, but trust that no matter what the bank balance says, God is with you to give you peace, hope, and joy. And with those gifs, you can probably build up that bank balance.

Now I am not telling you to not hope or work for any good thing in life. Pray for opportunities, pray for wisdom, pray for guidance, pray for resilience, pray for peace, pray for joy…apply for the job, work to improve your credit, start the diet, take the class, try the medicine…nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Hope, try, pray, work, wait..and perhaps blessings will result. But faith isn’t what made the blessings show up…faith is what reminded you that you were God’s beloved child no matter what happened.

Faith is the trust that whether or not things go my way, ultimately, all is well.

Such trust often frees us up to achieve what we desire…but hope, work, good timing, random chance all work together to make the good things happen…Faith is the trust that until the good things happen and even if they do not, I am part of God, loved by God, forever in God’s presence and therefore, all is well.

No matter what the doctor tells you, no matter what the financial advisor says, no matter what things look like, I will hope with and for you that things improve. But if they do not, it is not because you lacked faith. No, on the contrary, you can have faith that says God is good, I am one with God and therefore I am good, no matter what occurs in the realm of experience.
I used to have a friend who respond to every disappointment with the phrase, “Praise the Lord anyway.” That’s faith. When it goes my way and when it doesn’t, I will find something to be thankful for, some reason to rejoice.

Multiple times, I have prayed with people who were too sick to live but too afraid to die. They thought God was angry with them, that God would reject them. I have prayed with them and spoken with them trying to be a witness to the trustworthiness of God. And when they finally trusted that God’s love included them without condition of any kind, I have seen them make a peaceful transition.

A few times, its been the parents or grandparents of a gay or lesbian or transgender person who was afraid to die. They weren’t afraid for themselves, but they didn’t want to go because they were afraid that their Queer loved one would be rejected by God, and they didn’t want to leave them. And more than once those dear loved ones have come to trust the goodness of God and have said, “I am ready to go now, because I now know that God will not reject my child.”

With Elsie MacKay we can trust that we are one with God, and therefore peace and love and joyful living are possible. We are one with the goodness of God and we can trust that goodness at all times.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that trust in divine goodness is evidence that goodness exists.

But the writer of a letter to a group in Ephesus makes it even clearer.
That writer tells us in Ephesians 4.6 that there is “one God of all who is over all and through all and in all.”
God for, with, and in you. How could you ever be lost or separated from an omnipresent God?

And Ephesians 2.8 tells us, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God…”

Salvation is wholeness, or liberation, or well-being. You have been liberated, made whole…you are alright. This is God’s gift of grace.
By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing, it is God’s gift.

That verse has been used to suggest that if you have enough faith, that God would be okay with you…but that’s not grace; that’s an exchange. That’s commerce.

No, by grace (something freely given) you have been made whole and wonderful and delightful and worthy of God’s goodness, through God’s faith in you.

God trusts us to be how God ministers to the world.
God trusts us to be conduits through which divine love might flow.
God’s faith in us wasn’t something we earned, it was a free gift, grace.
We are the face and hands of God, we are God’s love in action because God trusts us with the task.
We are made from God, by God, and we are filled with God…and so it is that we are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.

We are saved from needless fear by God’s gracious trust in us to be God’s body in this world. A God who so trusts us, can be trusted by us.

Trust in God’s goodness is evidence of our own. That’s the message of Hebrews 11.
People entrusted with the very goodness of God can heal the world. This is the reality of my faith, and this is the good news. Amen.

God for me,
God with me,
God in me,
I trust in your goodness.
I Am abundantly blessed.
Alleluia!
Amen.

The One All

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

The One All Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Colossians 3.8-11 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 here today because we have decided to at least try to follow the […]

The One All
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Colossians 3.8-11

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 here today because we have decided to at least try to follow the way of Jesus; and what is that way?

The Jesus way is his mandate: Love one another.

But of course, one another isn’t just the people in this room.
He said the greatest commandments were to love God and love our neighbor, and with the story of the Good Samaritan, he suggested that even people we have been taught are our enemies are really our neighbors. More than that, they are our kin in the family of God.

When the writer of John’s gospel imagined Jesus saying, “I am the way…” he wasn’t saying that believing something about Jesus gained us entry into the afterlife cosmic country club. The writer was saying following the Jesus way was the way to experience God most fully; and what was the way of Jesus?
Love one another.
Love God and love your neighbor, and the people you can’t stand are still your neighbors.
Do until others as you would have them do unto you.

The people of the earliest Jesus movement were called followers of the Way.
And, still today, we wish to be followers of the Jesus way, the way of love, the way of compassion, the way of justice, the way of hospitality.
That is the way to experience God most fully, and to express God most tangibly in the world.

You see, there is a goodness in the world, and beyond, and we call that goodness “God.” It is pure love, it is the ground of all being, it is the source and substance of our lives. As followers of Jesus, we are meant to be expressions of this divine goodness.

God on a throne high and lifted up is easy to worship, because it‘s far removed from how we actually live our lives.

But God weeping over a lost loved one, God fighting to keep her house, God raising her grandchild, God seeking refuge, God in a cage or a soup line or showing up for his first NA meeting…we have a bit more trouble with those incarnations of the divine.

Remember the Joan Osborne song: “What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us?”
The Jesus story tells us that is exactly who God is. Who is the symbol for God with and among us for Christians?
An illiterate peasant whose conception was a scandal, who was born in a barn, whose family were refugees in Egypt’s, who said he was sometimes homeless with no place to lay his head, who had an arrest record and was executed for crimes against the empire.

If we can see God in Jesus, and this is the point of the Jesus story, we should be able to see glimpses of God in almost anyone, especially those who suffer.

Irwin Gregg was a prominent New Thought minister in Denver…Rev. Gregg tells us in our first reading today that knowing God as presence, power, and goodness and ourselves as being part of God is what true prayer is.
Who is part of God? Everyone.
Who is my neighbor? Everyone.

The writer of Colossians tells us today that Christ, God’s perfect idea or light, is in us all.

Gen 2.7 tells us that after God created the earth, God took some clay of the divinely formed earth and made a human and breathed life into the human…enlivening the earth-being with God’s own breath or spirit. Humanity, made of God’s earth, God’s love, and God’s life-force.

And because we all have sacred value, we are all part of God, we are all filled with God’s life and light…we bless God by being kind to those who most need kindness. Members of God’s body who are doing well minister to other members of God’s body who are hurting, and God is glorified.

Lev. 25.35 tells us: “If your siblings become poor and cannot be self-sufficient, you shall support them as though they were strangers and alien travelers, and they shall live with you.”

Notice, the writer doesn’t say treat the sojourner like a sibling; the instruction is to treat a sibling like a sojourner.
The assumption seems to be that we will be gracious, kind, hospitable to the sojourner…
the kid on the street rejected by family, the woman and her kids seeking shelter and safety from a violent spouse, a desperate family fleeing terrifying regimes or ruthless gangs…

Leviticus assumes that when we encounter such people our hearts will go out to them and we will welcome and love them, and if your friends or relatives hit hard times, treat them with the same generosity and kindness you would show anyone seeking refuge.

Job declares (31.32) that “the alien has not lodged outside, for I have opened my door to the traveler.” Job was righteous, and the proof of his righteousness what is generosity and hospitality.

And Jesus himself said, “Come unto me all who labor and are weary and I will refresh you.” (Matthew 11.28)

So far in 2019, iand t’s just August, at least 26 transgender people have been brutally murdered in the US.
We need the way of Jesus, the way of hospitality, welcome, justice-love, compassion.

People are suffering and dying in US custody at our borders…politics aside, those are children of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion. We need the way of Jesus.

Racists attacks, verbal and physical, are on the rise and it is vile and disgusting and beneath anyone who dares to call themselves a follower of Jesus. Oh we need Jesus’ Golden Rule and Great Command.

The Golden Rule should probably also be applied to our suffering planet upon which we depend for survival.

And violence on shocking scales happens weekly and we barely take time to weep anymore.

People shopping at a discount department store in El Paso were down mowed down in the aisles…
its been concert goers in Las Vegas, movie watchers in Colorado, shall school children in Connecticut, worshipers in South Carolina, teens at school in our own county, people dancing at a club in Orlando…
And we offer thoughts and prayers.

James, the brother of Jesus, preached (James 2.16): “If one of you says to [someone cold and hugnry], “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is that?”
James also said, “faith without action is dead.”

If thoughts and prayers do not spur us to action, our prayers are just an excuse to accept the status quo.

But we can pray, as Rev. Gregg suggested, by affirming the qualities of God and our unity with God.
And if God is good and we are part of God, then we will be God’s hands in the world bringing healing where it is needed.

People are hurting, and people are scared, and people are tired…but there’s hope, and it is us.
We aren’t reduced to just fretting; we can remember our unity with God and be God’s love in action. We can be followers of the Jesus way.

We can spend and donate our money, and pray, and speak out, and volunteer, and vote in ways that affirm our belief in the sacred value of all people.
We can insist on offering hospitality to the stranger, relief to the suffering, consolation to the bereaved, community to the lonely, food to the hungry, advocacy for the oppressed…
we can choose to see that of God in every person and refuse to be silent when anyone is treated as anything other than the living Temple of a Good and Loving God.

We who call ourselves followers of Jesus can commit to living out his Great Commandment.
Love God.
Love Neighbor.
And do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

In other words, act as if God is the one All…and respond to that of God that is in all. The healing of our world literally depends on it. I believe that is our calling and I affirm that we will live into it. And this is the good news. Amen.

There is only one Presence & one Power…
In the universe & in my life:
God, the good omnipotent.
And so it is that all shall be well,
All shall be well,
& all manner of things shall be well.
Alleluia!
Amen.

 

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