Prophetic Hope

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

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Prophetic Hope
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

The Apostle Paul wrote: “…We boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
And, we also boast in our sufferings…”

We boast in our hope of sharing glory.
Shared hope. Shared glory.

One of the primary organizers of the historic March on Washington was a gay man, Bayard Rustin. He worked with Dr. King, who knew Rustin was gay. Bayard Rustin spent his entire life working for economic justice, racial justice, and justice for gay people. In the late 80s, he also advocated for people living with AIDS. Rustin is one of our heroes, a symbol of shared hope and shared glory.

Kieth Haring died from AIDS related complications. He was only 31 years old. But he did not die before leaving his mark on the world.
Haring created more than 100 pieces of chalk graffiti art in NYC and his work was so amazing it gave him uncommon notoriety for a chalk artist. He went on to do more than 50 commissioned public art pieces around the world, often for hospitals and charities. He used his art work to bring awareness to the AIDS crisis and to advocate for LGBTQ equality. He taught children’s art workshops all over the world, and started his own foundation. But what he may be most famous for is creating the National Coming Out Day logo. Haring is one of our heroes, a symbol of shared hope and shared glory.

Ellen DeGeneres came out as lesbian, (although I believe she used the word gay). She came out to Time Magazine, she came out on the Oprah Winfrey Show, she came out through her character on her sit-com. Ellen changed how gay characters are portrayed on television. She paved the way for relatable, leading gay characters and out gay actors to be seen and heard on television. It cost her…she didn’t work for 3 years, and almost went broke. But she made a mighty comeback and remains television royalty to this day. Ellen is one of our heroes, a symbol of shared hope and shared glory.

Hope can be individual. But prophetic hope is for the community, for the nation, for the world. Prophetic hope is shared. Prophetic hope is hope that is offered to and celebrated by us all. We hope in sharing divine gory, and we celebrate when we, any of us, demonstrate the fulfillment of that hope.

But we boast also in our sufferings. Why? I don’t believe that God sends suffering, or requires it. I don’t believe that suffering is required to make us good. But I do know that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. We all experience suffering at some time. And if we’ve survived it, if we learned from it, or used it to help others, that gives us reason to be thankful.

AIDS decimated a generation. Today, it is preventable, treatable, and I choose to believe that a cure will be found.

Transphobia has vilified and hurt and even killed transgender and gender non-binary people. Today, we know that well over 1 million people identify as trans*, Janet Mock and Laverne Cox are trans-women and are superstars, and even legendary sex symbol Billy Dee Williams has come out as non-binary.

Racism is ugly, but we continue to work for justice.
Xenophobia is ugly, but we work for justice.
Women’s bodies are treated like a commodity by Hollywood and like a battle ground by the Right Wing…but we work for justice.
Suffering is real, but our response to suffering can be something to boast about.

In my life – I have endured the indignity of sodomy laws.
In my life – I have endured the indignity of being told there were career paths I couldn’t even consider because of my sexual orientation.

In my life – I have had preachers condemn me for being gay.
In my life – I have heard preachers say that bad weather, terrorists attacks, and a viral epidemic were all divine plagues sent by God to punish the world for gay people being in it. It seems stupid now, and certainly it was bad theology, but even bad theology can be weaponized and cause deep pain to those attacked by it.
In my life – I have had relatives try to shame me for who I am.
In my life – I have lived in a state that wrote discrimination into its constitution to keep me from marrying the person I love.

In my life – I’ve seen courts packed with homophobic judges committed to limiting my rights.
In my life – I’ve heard leaders meant to represent all citizens declare that if people say their homophobia is religiously motivated, their prejudice matters more than my life and love.
In my life – I have had to exercise extreme caution because being gay put me in danger in some environments.
In my life – I have had word and ritual, text and table used against me.

Is that reason to boast? You better believe it!
Because I’m here!
I love my life.
I am God’s miracle and not God’s mistake and I get to tell others that they, too, are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.

Suffering produced endurance, and endurance produced character, and character produced hope, and hope does not disappoint….it keeps us going.

Situations disappoint, circumstances disappoint, people disappoint, heck, I can even disappoint myself sometimes, but HOPE…does not disappoint. It says hold on.
Hope says things might get better.
Hope says today was a bust, but let’s see what tomorrow is like.
Hope says this was crushing, but I’m still here, and I can make something of this mess.

Moses spent his life trying to get to the promised land. He got his people almost there. They made it because of him. He didn’t make it…but his hope for his people paid off later. Even when we don’t see our hopes fulfilled, we still may have contributed to a miracle.

Dr. King told a crowd in Memphis in 1968: “I may not get there with you but I want to you know.that we, as a people will get to the promised land.”

We. Us. Everyone. That’s prophetic hope. We each do what we can, hoping to improve things, honoring the heroes, celebrating our resilience, and trusting that whether we see it or not, we are part of the healing that is needed in the world.

We’re here.
Hope got us here.
We are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.
We are making a difference.
And this is the good news.

Thank you, God, for the gift of hope.
Hope will not disappoint.

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