Give It All, Receive Even More

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

Give It All, Receive Even More 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. Thursday night someone came to the AirOTic show who had been raised in […]

Give It All, Receive Even More
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.

Thursday night someone came to the AirOTic show who had been raised in a church that did not accept him fully because he is gay. He gave up the church because it was neither a safe nor friendly place for him. But he came to a flying circus as Sunshine Cathedral. He said afterward, “this was the best experience I’ve ever had in a church.”

Thank you, for being a different kind of church. Thank you for helping people come back to a church after years away. Thank you for helping people laugh and experience joy in a church. Thank you for providing a place and a community where people can learn to love and celebrate themselves.

The acrobats from the show were telling me last night that not only have our staff been wonderful to them, but the audiences have been great too. I’ve seen people for several nights come up to them and hug and them and thank them for using their bodies in such amazing ways to inspire, and captivate, and celebrate LGBTQ lives. Something quite extraordinary happened here this weekend because of your willingness to be more, to do more, to give more, to move beyond the past and explore new possibilities. More people felt the healing, loving touch of God this weekend because this is a different kind of church. God bless the Sunshine Cathedral!

We give a lot. But we are called to do even more.

What does it look like to give it all?
When I think of people who gave it all, I think of Absalom Jones.

Absalom Jones was a former slave who became the first African American to be ordained an Episcopal priest and he founded the first African American Episcopalian congregation. He preached that God takes the side of the oppressed and distressed. Of course, that’s just the gospel.

I also think of Janani Luwum, the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda. He spoke out against the abuses of Idi Amin’s regime. For his speaking truth to power, he was executed…not just on Amin’s order, but by Amin himself. He was faithful to the gospel call of justice even unto death.

Another person who gave it all was Frederick Douglas. He escaped from slavery and became a statesman, orator, and passionate abolitionist. With the moral authority afforded him by his lived experience, he confronted the Christian church in this country for being so largely silent regarding the evils of slavery.

Of course, there was Harriet Tubman, called Moses in lore and song. She found personal freedom but did not rest with her own security. She returned to the antebellum South 19 times to help others escape slavery, some 300 individuals before she was done. She risked it all for the sake of justice…the biblical word for that is righteousness.

Several decades later, in the following century, Fannie Lou Hamer would also stand up to injustice and oppression. She challenged segregation and poverty. She was physically attacked many times. She knew the pain of water cannons and attack dogs, but she didn’t give up until she lost her battle with breast cancer.

She famously said, “Sometimes it seems like to tell the truth today is to run the risk of being killed. But if I fall, I’ll fall 5 feet, four inches forward in the fight for freedom. I’m not backing off.”

Pauli Murray comes to mind as someone who gave it all. Pauli (born Anna Pauline) was a lawyer, scholar, and priest. She was the first African American woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest. She wasn’t known for winning big cases as a lawyer, but her legal scholarship inspired and informed Thurgood Marshall. Her behind the scenes work armed some of the front line justice warriors. She’s also an important symbol, not only for being the first African American woman priest, but also for being a Lesbian and probably what we would today call Gender queer as well.

Sister Thea Bowman gave her all. She was a Franciscan nun from Mississippi. She was a teacher for 16 years. Her bishop then asked her to be a consultant for intercultural matters, and she spent the rest of her career visiting churches and attending conferences and speaking at these events. She was known as a dynamic preacher, and when asked about her preaching skill, she would playfully respond, “You know women don’t preach in the Catholic church.”

But she did preach, and sing, and tell stories, and was captivating. She wanted people to know that they could be happy, and that God’s love was for everyone. In 1984 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her prayer was, “Lord, let me live until I die.” And she did. She lived until 1990, preaching from a wheelchair.

Yes, we as people of faith speak out against injustice. We demand compassion for the hurting, and fairness for the marginalized, and we affirm the dignity and sacred value of all people. States are right now, despite a supreme court ruling in 2015, trying to roll back marriage equality. We’ll have something to say about that, I promise.

When we demand equal opportunity and equal protection and nondiscrimination for gay and lesbian and bisexual people, when we affirm the dignity and full personhood of transgender persons, when we cry out as refugees are treated cruelly and families and torn apart and children are incarcerated…we aren’t being partisan (God forbid that compassion and decency and fairness ever be reduced to partisanship); we trying to do what we can to proclaim the gospel, the good news which is meant to be good news for all people. We are trying to demonstrate by word and deed the all-inclusive, unconditional love of God.

The gospel reading today tells us parables about giving it all. A woman who keeps adding yeast until her whole loaf rises. Someone who stumbles upon a treasure in a field and rather than just taking it, buys the field. A merchant who finds such a rare pearl that she is willing to sell all her other merchandise to get this rare beauty. All three stories show people doing all they can, giving all they can, and in the process, receiving even more than they gave.

Didn’t the heroes we’ve heard about today give everything for the cause of Christ, the sake of righteousness, and their work led to advances in justice for more people, and it led to their examples being lifted up today. They gave, but the more they gave, the more they had to give.

We use email, You Tube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, print, pulpit, music, groups, classes, concerts, cabarets, movies, home visits, dinners, drag shows, bible study in bars, food collection, erotic flying circuses…we do and give and create and share all that we can…to reach more people to share with them that they are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.

And as you grow spiritually, you will want to give more, too. Worship more frequently, take a class, volunteer, increase your pledge, pray more, study more, maybe just hug two more people every Sunday…but the more you give to God, the more of God you will experience. That’s the pearl of great price, and it’s worth everything.

I honestly hope that none of us has to give as much Bishop Luwum or Fannie Lou Hamer, but I also hope that we will allow their sacrifices to inspire us to give a bit more of ourselves to make the world better. The more we give, the more we will receive… we may even find ourselves experiencing the kin-dom of God, or at least living in the hope of its arrival. What’s better than that? Isn’t that what we’re here to do?

Sunshine Cathedral is an oasis of hope and healing, love and liberation, peace and possibilities. Sunshine Cathedral is a great treasure that people are still finding. And YOU are the Sunshine Cathedral, and this is the good news. Amen.

God gives abundantly.
God’s grace is unlimited.
I am willingly to give myself more completely to God.
The more I give to God, the more of God I experience.
Alleluia!

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