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.

 

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