Healers in a Hurting World

On January 6, 2020, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Healers in a Hurting World
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Mt 2; Mk 1

Jan 5, 2020

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.

Mark tells us that when Jesus left the synagogue, he went immediately to help someone in need. He comforted Peter’s mother-in-law. He was able to encourage her enough that she quickly got back in the thick of things. His ministry was life-giving. His compassion renewed someone who was weak and weary.

Jesus worshiped, and then went out from the synagoge to help someone else by sharing the gifts he received in worship.
Jesus worshiped, and then he was able to make a difference.

After Jesus helped one person, the story says that he ministered to a lot of people who were mentally or physically hurting.
One, and then many. It seems to work that way, doesn’t it?

We opened space for a few groups, and before long, Sunshine Cathedral was home to dozens of groups.

We started sharing food with a few people in need. Three years later, we are sharing food with over 400 people each week.

We took spare change offerings to help publish our literature, now those offerings are also shared with other worthy organizations in town.

We started a performing arts series and it has grown every year. We offer joy and community through the arts, touching people who would never think to come to a regular church service.

We started sharing our message on streaming video, social media, the Internet, Second Life…and now tens of thousands of people from all over the world are touched by Sunshine Cathedral each week.

Do something. Do it with faith and love, and over time, you’ll be doing even more.

Jesus worshiped and he let his worship experience bless him, and he shared his blessings in order to heal someone, and then, he was helping and healing people all over the place.

After Jesus healed all those people, some he went to, some others brought to him, then people started seeking him out on their own.

An outcast, an untouchable, a leper comes to Jesus and asks for help. Jesus gives it.

A friend’s mother-in-law needs help – Jesus gives it.
Neighbors need help – Jesus does what he can.
People from all over, including those religion and society said were untouchable, come to Jesus – and he blesses them, too.

Worship can equip us to make a big difference in the world.
In worship, we are blessed to be a blessing.

First, we can encourage a friend, neighbor or coworker.
Then we can touch a lot of people with our sharing, our volunteer efforts, our support of wide reaching ministries.
And then, people seek us out because we’re the love place, the hope place, the joy place, the healing place…and we welcome them and we bless them.

Worship can transform us so that we can help transform the world around us…and it needs it.

The other gospel reading today, the the story of the magi amplifies the message of healing.

Magi, Zoroastrian priests from Persia, modern day Iran, find Jesus and protect him from Herod’s campaign of targeting male children (basically a retelling of the Moses story where families were torn apart and children killed).

Jesus’ ancestors were conquered by Persia, and now, it’s Persians coming to the aid of Jesus and his family.

Herod is destroying families.
Persians, an ancient enemy, show compassion.

There has been a lot of pain, a lot of misery, a lot of misdeeds, a lot of hatred, a lot bigotry over the centuries, but in Matthew’s gospel, Zoroastrians and Jews, Persians and Palestinians, rich and poor are all children of God, all capable of showing love and compassion, all able to be kinder than their forebears had been. Matthew suggests that there can be healing in a hurting world.

When politics or religion or society became dangerous or hateful, Matthew insists that God’s love is still within us and can be expressed. Mary, Joseph, Jesus, Magi…day laborers and foreign dignitaries, peasants and potentates…all can choose to be healers in a hurting world.

Children suffer in cages on our southern border.
Australia is on fire, lives lost, ecosystems destroyed.
We have an epidemic of mass violence in this country.
Once again…once again…we are on the brink of another military conflict.
The second largest Protestant denomination in the US is blowing up over homophobia.
Our world is hurting!

What can we do?
Jesus shows us something we can all do, right now.

1. We can worship.
2. We can share the blessings we receive from worship with someone else.
3. We can then share our blessings with lots of people.
4. And as word gets out, and people come here for encouragement, for affirmation, for sanctuary…we can welcome them.

We can offer a loving embrace to gay and lesbian and bisexual people, to people still getting HIV diagnoses, to transgender and non-binary indivividuals, we can welcome interfaith families, spiritual seekers who arent interested in a lot of doctrine or dogma, we can love people from every nation regardless of their documentation, we can encourage people who struggle with addiction or depression, we can show kindness to the bereaved or anxious or lonely who need to be around friendly faces and warm gestures, and we certainly can tell one and all that they are God’s miracles and not God’s mistake.

Worship can help us love our neighbors as ourselves.
Worship can help us do unto others as we would have others do unto us.
Worship can help us become the peacemakers that Jesus called blessed.
Worship can help insist that swords be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks.
Worship can help us know that no one is untouchable, or unlovable.
Worship reminds us that we all have sacred value.
Worship helps us encounter the unconditional, all-inclusive, everlasting love of God and that encounter is bound to transform us, or at very least, renew us.

Make worship a priority in 2020.
It’s no small thing.
Worship can be the first step to becoming healers in a hurting world.

2020 needs us to be healers in a hurting world.
We can be, and I declare that we will be.
This is the good news. Amen.

Renew my hope, God.
And bless me to be a blessing to others throughout 2020.
Amen.

Season of Love

On December 23, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Season of Love
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Advent 4

“Love never ends.”

Mary = pregnant

Joseph = heart broken? Certainly embarrassed.
Could have ruined Mary.

But being RIGHTEOUS (just, fair, merciful) he didn’t want to expose her to disgrace.

Women had no status apart from a man…she could have been left destitute and without any legal protections or social advantages. People in such circumstances were often reduced to begging, or prostitution, some were killed outright. He didn’t want to leave her that vulnerable even though it appeared as if she had betrayed him.

Love doesn’t rejoice in wrongs. Loves hopes all things, bears all things. Love never ends.

Joseph had a dream wherein the angel of God (the messenger of love) tells Joseph: DO NOT BE AFRAID.

Love casts out fear.
FEAR = Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise Love’s message was don’t be afraid; Face Everything And Rise

Freda Smith = resolving problems:
Find it
Face it
Fix it
Finish it
Forget it

Do not be afraid.
Find the truth.
Face the difficulty.
Fix what you can.
Finish your part.
And then move forward.

God is love, and love never ends.
God’s angel, Love’s messenger didn’t say hate Mary, or condemn her, or shame her, or abandon her, or threaten her…
Love said don’t be afraid of your love.
Don’t be afraid to be kind, generous, forgiving.
Don’t be afraid to love.

And so Joseph took Mary in.
He gave her a husband, a family, a home.
And he gave her child a name, a future.
In Joseph’s story, Love Wins.

If religion condemned you, rejected you, vilified you, demonized you, or dehumanized you…religion was misused. The angel of God is a messenger of love, and Love’s messenger says don’t be afraid to love! Don’t be afraid to show compassion, kindness, welcome, generosity, and mercy. Love says see the light in every person. Love says you are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.

We are entering a Season of Love…let yourself know that you are, just as you are, lovable and you have love to give. Do not be afraid. God’s love never ends.

To celebrate the season of love, I want to share a song about a special kind of love for one of God’s creatures. Maestra, if you please.

“I want a hippopotamus for xmas
Only a hippopotamus will do
Don’t want a doll, no dinky tinker toy
I want a hippopotamus to play with and enjoy.

“I want a hippopotamus for xmas
I don’t think Santa Claus will mind do you?
He won’t have to use the dirty chimney flue Just bring him through the front door that’s an easy thing to do.

“I can see me now on xmas morning creeping don the stairs Oh what joy and what surprise when i open up my eyes And see a hippo hero standing there

“I want a hippopotamus for xmas
Only a hippopotamus will do
No crocodiles or rhinoceroses
I only like hippopotamuseses
And hippopotamuseses like me too
And hippopotamuseses like me too”

This is a season of love.
In God, every season is a season of love.
And this is the good news. Amen.

Divine Love,
Fill my heart,
And heal it.
Alleluia!
Amen.

Joy Beyond Conditions

On December 16, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Turning Pink with Joy
Rev Elder Dr Mona West

Today we lit the third candle in the Advent wreath. Has anyone noticed that it is pink? (This is a queer church, of course we noticed!) Pink, or Rose, is the liturgical color for Joy. In the early history of the Christian church, Advent was observed as a penitential season, much like the season of Lent. On the third Sunday there is a call to take a break from all that penance and rejoice. This is Gaudete Sunday which is the first word in Latin for the Introit to the Mass: Gaudete! or Rejoice! Deep into the rhythm of repentance of the season, the third candle is lit as an invitation to joy. In protestant traditions we tend to focus on the waiting and anticipation of the season, and not so much on the repenting. But we still have this pink candle that we light, right smack dab in the middle of the season. In our time and place, we light this Gaudete candle, deep into the rhythm of the scarcity and fear that pervades our culture and our lives. In the midst of global warming, immigration injustice, impeachment hearings, fake news, terrorist alerts, and mass shootings, this candle invites us to rejoice.

This morning we heard some familiar stories from the gospel of Luke, that I will get to in a moment, but first I want to share from the gospel of Brené Brown… She is a sociologist and researcher who has written many books on how to live courageously and compassionately in our world today. In one of her first books, Daring Greatly, she shares stories of her research on vulnerability. In it she claims that vulnerability is joy’s constant companion. In order for us to receive joy we must be willing to be vulnerable.

Let’s think about that for a minute. All of us want to be joyful, right? Who wouldn’t want joy in their lives? I’m not talking about happiness, which is an emotion connected to circumstances. We get a new car, we are happy. We get a speeding ticket, we are unhappy.

Joy has a deeper dimension to it, a spiritual quality about it. But we resist it because in order to feel and live in that deeper level of joy, we have to be vulnerable. Brown explains it this way: “We wake up one morning and think, Work is going well. Everyone in the family is healthy. No major crises are happening. The house is still standing. I’m working out and feeling good….Oh, shit. This is bad. This is really bad. Disaster must be lurking right around the corner.”

She calls this “foreboding joy.” We resist joy because in order to receive it, we open ourselves to risk and uncertainty. We are afraid the joy won’t last, or we don’t deserve it. To receive joy is certainly a set up for failure, as soon as we let down our guard and receive it, surely some disaster will come along to take it away. And so, we shield ourselves from this kind of vulnerability with “foreboding joy.”

I grew up in Louisiana and there is something about southern culture that thrives on “foreboding joy.” Don’t play in the front yard, you might wander out into the street and get hit by a car. Don’t play in the rain, you might get a cold. Make sure you have bread close by when you eat fried fish in case you get a bone stuck in your throat.

When I was about 10 years old, I had a best friend named Cindy Littleton. One day she invited me to go with her family to their grandmother’s house in the country. Her grandmother had a pond on her property, and we could go swimming! Well, when I asked mother if I could go, she agreed but told me under no circumstances could I swim in that pond, because I might drown.
So, off to grandmother’s house we go. Me, Cindy, her sister Sandra, and her daddy, Shorty, in his El Camino. Now for those of you who don’t know, an El Camino was a cross between a chevorlet truck and station wagon. It’s like a car-truck…

Of course the first thing we did when we got to Cindy’s grandmother’s was to take off our clothes and go swimming in the pond, which was at the bottom of a hill. Shorty was fishing on the other side of the pond, Sandra was in the El Camino parked at the top of the hill, listening to the radio. The next thing I knew, Sandra was running down the hill screaming, “get out of the way, get out of the way of the car!” Somehow she had released the emergency brake on the El Camino while listening to the radio and it was rolling down the hill toward us!

I barely made it out of the path of the El Camino as it hit the water, suffering a bruised knee. By the time Shorty made it to the scene of the accident I was standing there with mud all over me, crying and exclaiming, “God punished me for disobeying my mother!”

The moral of this story is not, “mind your mother.” The moral of this story is “we can pass foreboding joy on to our kids, and it can lead to bad theology!”

Well, on to the gospel according to Luke. I believe the characters in the stories we heard today have some lessons to share with us about embracing joy. First of all, joy comes to us in the ordinary moments of our lives. We can miss joy’s surprise if we are busy chasing after it in the extraordinary. What could be more ordinary that tending sheep, or going to the Temple every day. The shepherds and Simeon don’t feel entitled to joy, in fact they are the last people their society would have expected to experience any kind of joy. Being a Shepherd was one of the worst occupations you could have in the ancient world, no one would expect a shepherd to have joy! As an old man with no family of his own, Simeon would also be considered an outcast, and worthless in his society. Nearing the end of his life, certainly his odds for joy had run out. But that is the good news of the gospel of Luke. The joy found in the Christmas story comes to the most unlikely characters of the day—an unwed mother, smelly shepherds, asenior citizen…There is something about the “ordinariness” of joy that makes it subversive, and we need more of that kind of joy in our society today.

Which leads me to my second point: joy is for the telling and celebrating. Don’t apologize for your joy! We might be tempted to shrink back from our joy with all the chaos, loss and meanness around us, but there is something about that pink candle that doesn’t just invite us, it commands us to “rejoice.” Just like the candle pinkness inserts itself into the rhythm of this season, sharing our joy can be a spiritual practice that inserts itself into our weary world. Simeon shared his joy in a song, and that shared joy is prayed by thousands of people today every night before going to sleep: Now let your servant go in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation.
Luke tells us “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” Can you imagine what Christmas would have been if the shepherds had kept the experience of the nativity to themselves. “What if people think we were crazy to leave our sheep to go find this baby? We aren’t sure this child is going to be all that is expected of him; maybe we should forget this happened. We might be arrested for sharing this kind of news.”

The shepherds teach us not to squander our joy. Instead of resisting it because of fear of vulnerability, lean into it. When we overcome our foreboding and lean into joy, we build resilience and cultivate hope. Joy becomes a part of us and when bad things do happen we don’t lose our joy, instead we are stronger to endure those times.

Richard Rohr defined joy as both a decision and a surrender. Eventually we stop being preoccupied with creating a fault-free environment that will ensure our own happiness, and we discover that joy is much more like falling into God, falling into Love. You don’t manufacture joy, you collapse into it when you give up trying to make it happen.

Today, on this third Sunday of Advent, I invite us to turn pink with joy

Angelic Peace

On December 16, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Angelic Peace
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.

I have friend who has been going through a very difficult ordeal for months now. She’ll tell me when she’s tired or in pain or anxious or deeply disappointed, and if I catch myself trying to put a coat of emotional paint on her frustration, I immediately apologize and say something like, “you’re entitled to those feelings. What do you need from me?”
Or sometimes I’ll say, “that sucks, but you’re amazing.”
Or sometimes I’ll just say, “I love you.”
My job isn’t to overcome my discomfort by trying to make hers go away.
My job is just to hear her and love her. Full stop.

We see in the story of Hagar how peace can come from just being heard.

Hagar is an enslaved person.
She has been forced to be someone’s concubine.
And now, the same people who have used her in such terrible ways, have turned her out into the wilderness.
She is now homeless and facing starvation, with her child. Hagar has known pain, frustration, and injustice and much of it has been caused by people of faith!

Hagar doesn’t need anyone to tell her to bear with the abuse and cruelty because things will be better in the next life.
She doesn’t need anyone to tell her that her suffering is redemptive, or that God won’t give her more than she can bear, or that she’s being tested, or attacked by demonic forces, or punished by God.
She doesn’t need anyone to tell her that she needs more faith.
She doesn’t need anyone telling her that if she had just stayed in her country of origin bad things might not have happened to her.

Religious people, religious superstars have abused her and then rejected her. she’s not interested in other religious people blaming her for the mistreatment she has received.

She doesn’t need bad theology; she needs to be seen, and heard.
She’s scared and lonely and hurting and overwhelmed and has no idea what to do next.

And then God’s messenger, God’s angel, a manifestation of God’s presence appears to her and says this: God has heard your child crying.

That’s the good news. Not that the mother and child shouldn’t be scared or angry or perplexed. Just that they have been heard.

God sees them. God cares. God responds with the power of presence. That’s the healing. That’s the possibility of peace. That’s the miracle.

No one was able to make it okay, there’s nothing okay about Hagar’s predicament. It’s unfair, it’s unnecessary, it’s heartless, it’s awful.
but God could remind her that she was worthy of care and concern.
God noticed. God cared. She was never alone. She was not forgotten. She was heard.

In fact, her child’s name, Ishmael, means “god has heard.”

A famous minister lost his son in a car accident. Well meaning friends tried to comfort him with bad theology. They told him, “God called him home.” He corrected them sharply. he said, “God didn’t kill my boy; in fact, when my son died, God was the first one to shed a tear.”

16 year old Guatemalan Carlos Vasquez died in border custody. He had the flu and 103 degree temperature. He needed medical care. He collapsed on the hard floor of his cell, and hours later died. You’d think the only possible human response would be gut wrenching sorrow. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair. It didn’t need to happen. But I do believe that he did not die alone. The light of God surrounded him, the love of God enfolded him, the presence of god watched over him, and when he took his last breath God wailed with the pain of a mother watching her child die.

Human politics and human prejudice and human institutions failed to treat Carlos as a child of God, but divine love never let him go. That doesn’t excuse the injustice, it simply reminds us that not even human cruelty can separate us from the love that God is.

There’s not a spot where God is not.
God is present.
God knows.
God hears.
God cares.
God sends angels, signs of God’s presence, to remind us that God is near; that God’s love will never let us go.

The other day I was a little down in the dumps. While I was sitting in my recliner looking, I imagine, quite forlorn, my sweet dog Bella crawled into my lap (all 80 pounds of her), and put her head on my shoulder. She noticed. She cared. She loved. She was my angel. I felt better. Not that my doldrums were instantly cured, but I felt noticed, cared about, my heart and soul had been heard.

A cat, a dog, a friend, a stranger, a song, a line in a movie, a phrase in a book, a butterfly, a memory, a thought, a sunset…an angel can take any guise and remind us that God is with us. The power of presence can offer peace, angelic peace.

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising god and saying, ‘glory to god in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill to all people.’”

I don’t know what you may be facing, and I don’t know how to fix it whatever it is…but I do believe that God is aware of it, and God is with you, and God may just have an angel ready to remind you that God hears the cry of your heart and responds with pure love.
Listen to your angels…they are reminding you that God knows; God cares. And this is the good news. Amen.

God hears the cry of my heart…
and responds with pure love.
Alleluia!
Amen.

Prophetic Hope

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

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.

1963.
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.

1990.
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.

1997.
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.
Amen.

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

Experiencing Christ

On November 24, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Experiencing Christ
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Luke 24

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.

In Luke’s gospel today, two people are on a journey, and along the way they encounter Jesus.

The story really isn’t about the days immediately following Jesus’ execution; it’s about how what Jesus represents is timeless and can be experienced whatever path we may be on.

A beautiful prayer, one of my favorites, is based on today’s gospel story. It is an evening prayer:
“Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love.”

Even though it is currently morning, that prayer is my heart today.
Lord Jesus…be our companion in the way, on our path.

My spiritual path has been a winding one and it ain’t over yet.

On every leg of my journey, I have bumped into Jesus.
My first experience of Jesus was kind of dysfunctional. He was my protector from an angry god.
It was neither a mature nor healthy theology, but I was young and my ideas about God would become less troubling.

Jesus then becam for me the one offering afterlife fire insurance. How fear based and self-serving was that?
Without Jesus, I was told, there would literally be hell to pay, but when the Grim Reaper showed up, if i said, “I’m with Jesus”…I’d get in to the exclusive club rather than being sent to the cosmic penal colony.
I blame, in part, the “fishidie” prayer…”If I should die before I wake, I pray the lord my soul to take.” I said that prayer every night and developed the idea that the point of prayer was to remind or persuade God to welcome me “if i should die.” Luckily, over time, my God and my Jesus would get a few upgrades.

As I matured, Jesus continued to evolve for me. He became for me a philosopher, a morality teacher, a justice warrior, a life changer, a soul healer. As I allowed God to get bigger, Jesus got better. He didn’t save me from God’s wrath, but rather helped me to think about God in more joyful and life-giving ways.

But one of the sweetest experiences I’ve had of Jesus so far is Jesus as Lord.

To call Jesus “Lord” is camp. It’s ironic. It’s humorous. It’s political. It’s subversive. It’s world changing.

Caesar was lord.
Military might, economic power, class privilege…these were the marks of lordship and Jesus didn’t have any of that, and he was pretty critical of many who did, especially if they didn’t use their advantages to help others.

Jesus is the opposite of a “lord” in any conventional sense.
His conception was a scandal.
He was born homeless.
As a toddler he became a refugee, crossing an uninviting border with his family to find safety.
As an adult he was arrested for sedition and convicted and executed.

To call that outcast, that rebel, that peasant Lord is to say that God has special care for the broken hearted, the mistreated, the oppressed, the poor, the marginalized.

To call Jesus Lord is to say that there’s not a spot where God is not, and we are each God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.
If Jesus is Lord, he is the Lord of outcasts, and that means no one gets left out.

If Jesus is Lord, we all have sacred value. As an archetype, he is our hero, the symbol of rising from the dust of despair to dwell forever in the glory of grace.

As a friend of our hearts, he is someone who knows suffering, who knows injustice, who knows cruelty, and who stands in solidarity with the weeping and the weary, the despised and the dispossessed of the world.

To say Jesus is Lord is to repudiate Jim Crow era racism and its lasting legacy.
To say Jesus is Lord is to remove all shame from HIV/AIDS.
To say Jesus is Lord is to have as much compassion for a fractured spirit as for a fractured skull.

To say Jesus is Lord is to atone for the idolatry of worshiping cisgender heterosexism.
To say Jesus is Lord is to ache for those tormented by flood or fire, war or want, disease or despair, closets or cages.

To call Jesus Lord is to fight hunger, not the hungry.
To call Jesus Lord is to affirm same-gender loving people. God is love and WHOEVER lives in love lives in God and God lives in them.

To call Jesus Lord is celebrate transgender lives in the Rainbow diversity of creation. In Christ there is neither male nor female but we are all one in Christ.

To call Jesus Lord is to say that every person from cradle to casket has innate worth and dignity.

Jesus is Lord is the oldest creed of Christianity.
It is the opposite of empire, dictatorship, and domination.
The Lordship of Jesus is a commitment to the kin-dom of God, a realm where peace is the goal and love is the law and every person is known as a child of God.

I’m so glad I didn’t give up on my journey until I could say, for me, Jesus is Lord.

Let me hasten to add, That in no way detracts from other faith vocabularies. The deepest truths of the way of Jesus are true in other faith traditions. Buddhists and the B’hai, Muslims and Mormans, Jews and Jains, Hindus and Humanists all have gifts that bless this world.
Every love filled faith experience I have ever had or witnessed was a window to the Divine. Any tradition that affirms the sacred value of all people, that prioritizes unconditional love, and that believes religion is best when it seeks justice for all is participating in the kin-dom of God and is compatible with the way of Jesus.

In the gospel story today, how did the travelers experience Jesus?
They told their stories. They were hurting, grieving, and they shared their hearts. They were vulnerable.
Christ was experienced in an open heart.

Then, they offered Jesus hospitality.
They didn’t know who he was, only that he seemed to need shelter for the night, and they provided it, no questions asked. They experienced Christ in their own act of generosity.

Then they sat down to share a meal…the open table, with a stranger, everyone valued, and in that moment of connecting, comm-union, they experienced Christ.

To say Jesus is Lord isn’t to argue details about his life, but to let the stories of his life inspire and transform our own.

When Jesus is Lord, we share our hearts, we share our resources, we share our lives.
Such sharing in Jesus’ name healed hurting people in the first century, and it still can today. And so I say this morning, for me, Jesus is Lord, and this is the good news. Amen.

Lord Jesus,
Be my companion.
Amen.

The Day of the Lord

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

The Day of the Lord
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Malachi 4.1-6

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.

A day is coming, we are told in both prophetic and apocalyptic literature, a day is coming that is going to be eventful. The sages called the upcoming day the day of the Lord…but even though several prophets and preachers imagined an upcoming day of the Lord, they all seemed to mean different things by it.

Some thought the day would be a day of battle.

Some thought the day would be a natural disaster…flood, fire, wind, earthquake.

Still others thought the day of the lord would be some sort of cosmic event.

So…people have all kinds of ideas about what the day of the Lord will be…but its big and its coming.

Malachi is one more prophet using the day of the lord motif. But I like what he does with it.
He says something big and possibly difficult may be in the future, but he also promises healing.

Hard times come. Things aren’t always easy. Of course trouble will come…it has before and it probably will again…BUT, to those who revere God’s names (Nature), the sun of justice, the sun of righteousness, the sun of goodness will rise with healing in its rays.

What is god’s nature?
Presence.
Love.
Life.
Wisdom.

Crap happens, but for those who know God as omnipresence, comfort is always available.
Hate and bigotry may try to tear the world apart, but those who know God as love will always see past hate’s lies and will always find something good to strive toward.

Peril and danger may come, but those who know God as life will remember that nothing can separate us from the source of our lives.
Problems come and sometimes like an avalanche, but those who know god as wisdom will trust that there are answers to problems and we can find them.

Days may be coming when transgender women of color are killed almost weekly,
Days may be coming when children are separated from their parents in heartless and needless ways,
Days may be coming with children live in fear of school shootings,
Days may be coming when wars are waged on nations, communities, and even the environment itself,
Days may be coming where honesty and integrity and fairness and kindness are all but lost or forgotten,
BUT to those who know that God is love, life, presence and wisdom, healing rays will shine and hope will be renewed and peace will be possible.

If you know the nature of god to be good, you’ll have joy that circumstances cannot take away…you’ll break out into dancing…it may look ridiculous, like a cow leaping out of the barn, but you’ll be so happy you won’t care.

And what happens while we’re dancing for joy? We know that god is not vengeful, petty, or cruel. We know that god is love and there’s not a spot where god is not and we are each god’s miracle and not god’s mistake so we have joy and we dance like leaping cows and while we dance we stomp on the wicked.

That isn’t telling us to do harm to people we’ve judged to be wicked….that’s how religion plays sometimes, but that isn’t the way of the god of love, the god of joy. Our dance is a joy dance, not a war dance. No, the wicked we stamp out are wicked thoughts….thoughts of bigotry, thoughts of xenophobia, thoughts of domination, thoughts of exploitation, thoughts of greed, thoughts that would deny anyone dignity or hope or a hand up in a moment of need. We know god’s good nature and we will have too much joy to try to make anyone else miserable, and too much joy to let anyone keep us miserable.

Malachi asks his community to remember Moses who gave the commandments – take care of the elders, don’t lie about people, don’t steal, don’t murder, don’t begrudge your neighbor their joys and good fortune, don’t break the vows you make…these are all ways of saying, be kind, be loyal, be loving, don’t try to hurt people, in fact, try to help and even to heal people. Those are god’s commandments delivered by moses. We who know god’s nature know that god’s commandments can be summarized in a single word: love.

Malachi also says that Elijah will return. Elijah was a fierce prophet. He stood up to government abuse. He challenged those who gained power and privilege by oppressing minorities. Malachi says Elijah will be back to stand against bigotry and cruelty and hatred.

Jesus compared John the baptizer. At the Passover meal, his last supper, he drank from Elijah’s cup.
Maybe we are the return of Elijah. I believe we are even the return of Christ. Bad days happen, but god in us is present to shine healing rays into our lives, and through us, into the world.

Malachi imagines god saying, “I will send Elijah and I will not strike the land with a curse.” Maybe we are the cure, the healing presence, the healing rays.

If god is omnipresent, then every day is god’s day. And those who know god to be good can rejoice no matter what circumstances may be. And if we know god to be good, we can be the prophetic voice sharing good news with the world, the good news that all people have sacred value, the good news of god’s all-inclusive, unconditional, everlasting love. And when enough of us embrace that message, there is no curse, there is just us experiencing and sharing the power of love.

God’s about cures, not curses.
God’s not coming; God is here.
God is love, and those who know that have joy in their lives.
And this is the good news. Amen.

Every day is God’s day.
I trust the one Power.
I am serene, peaceful, and joyful.
Alleluia!
Amen.

Grace Is True

On November 10, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Grace Is True
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Hosea 11

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.

I often hear well-meaning Christians say that grace is a new testament concept, or the God of the Old Testament is angry and punishing but the god of the new testament is a god of love and grace.

Newsflash…Jesus’ god is the god of the bible he knew, and the bible he knew is what we call the old testament, the Hebrew bible. If Jesus speaks of a gracious god, he learned about that god from what we call the old testament.

In Genesis 21, Hagar has been thrown out of her home.

Hagar was Abraham and Sarah’s slave. She was then forced to be Abraham’s concubine. A surrogate mother for Sarah who had been unable to conceive.
But when Sarah did conceive, Hagar went from being a commodity to a perceived threat, and she was thrown out of her home with no resources.

In the desert, facing probable death, God showed Hagar a well in the wilderness. In the midst of unfairness, injustice, oppression, and betrayal…God was with Hagar. After discovering that lifesaving well, hagar also found a community and a new home. Comfort in a moment of anguish, a well in the wilderness, was a moment of grace when it was desperately needed.

In 1 Kings 17, there was a terrible drought. A widow was about to make her last meal. After that, she and her son would just wait to starve to death. The prophet Elijah came to the widow and asked for food. She told him she only had enough provisions to make some flat cakes as a last meal for her son and herself. Graciously, she decided to share her last meal with the prophet, and from her act of generosity a miracle of provision occurred. The flour and oil that she had which was just enough for one last meal lasted throughout the drought, and she and her son did not die. God was in the act of sharing. God was in the act of courage. God’s amazing grace was present in the time of need.

And we all remember the story of Jonah. Jonah went to Ninevah, the capital of Assyria, to preach their destruction. He got to Ninevah by way of a big fish, or sea monster. The story shouldn’t be taken literally, but its point is powerful. Jonah told the Ninevites that God was angry with them and was going to destroy them. But God did not. God was more gracious than Jonah wanted to believe. The Assyrians were an abusive empire, and Jonah didn’t like them. He pretended to believe that God didn’t like them either, But when God didn’t destroy them, this is what Jonah said:
“I didn’t want to come to Ninevah, God, because I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God…abounding in love…”

Jonah knew that God was love, and that love was by nature, gracious. He didn’t like it, but deep down, he knew it.

If we haven’t found grace in the Old Testament, we haven’t looked carefully enough. Yes, there are wars and smiting and finger wagging, but in spite of the imagery imposed by patriarchal times, the message of divine grace comes through, time and again.

We see that again when we read the prophet Hosea. Poor Hosea is married to a woman named Gomer. Hosea couldn’t get Gomer to stay home nights. Basically, Gomer would get picked up for solicitation and Hosea would always pay her bail.
Hosea was hurt, and humiliated. He could have left his wandering wife, but he loved her too much. No matter how much she hurt him, betrayed him…he couldn’t abandon her. Today we would call Hosea desperately co-dependent and suggest he check out a support group, but what Hosea did, instead, is use his heartbreak to help people understand the love and grace of God.

Hosea couldn’t abandon the woman he loved, no matter how she behaved; and God, Hosea believed, would never abandon us, no matter what.

Hosea knew his community didn’t always live up to the love ethic, didn’t always welcome the stranger, didn’t always love neighbors, didn’t always seek to keep the Sacred at the forefront of their consciousness. They turned to the false gods of nationalism, greed, racism, xenophobia. They worshiped cruelty and called it divine.
Hosea imagined this must have grieved God, and so, he imagined God being like a jealous husband raging against the unfaithful spouse, saying threatening things like, “One day you’ll call me and I won’t answer. I won’t care anymore!”

But that’s not God. God wouldn’t even snuff out the capital of a cruel empire. God moved the heart of a hungry widow to share what little she had and then helped her survive. God directed Hagar to a well in the wilderness. God is love and love is gracious.

So Hosea imagines God remembering: “I taught you how to walk. I bent down to feed you, like a nursing mother. I can’t give up on you. My love for you is too strong. I’m the holy One. I am with you. I will not show anger.”

That’s grace. That’s who God is.

There’s not a spot where god is not.
There’s not a place beyond god’s grace.
There’s not a time that’s not sublime.
God is all-in-all.

People have been abused, neglected, rejected, terrified, belittled, demonized, and dehumanized in the name of God. And, many have left religion, or even tried to leave God. But the prophet Hosea tells us that god is love and love is gracious and even if in our pain we turn from faith, the love that god is will never turn from us.

I hope you fall in love with God, but if you’re not there yet, I hope you will hear this: God is in Iove with you and that will never change, because Grace is True, and this is the good news. Amen.

Divine Love will never let me go.
I am amazed by divine grace.
And I am thankful.
Alleluia!
Amen.

Praise God!

On October 21, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Praise God!
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Psalm 150

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.

In 1950 an Irving Berlin musical debuted on Broadway: Call Me Madam. There is a song from that show that is on an endless loop in my head, and in my soul.

{You’re Just in Love}

I often break out into song. I always have. And Hand to God, the first song I ever learned was from the musical Hair. Imagine 1970 or 71, a 4 or 5 year Durrell standing on a cocktail table in the living room singing,

“When the moon is in the 7th house and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then peace will guide the planets, and love will steer the stars this is the dawning of the age of Aquarius, age of Aquarius….”

My first time in drag…
In 1969 a Saturday morning show called HR Pufnstuf aired just 17 episodes, but the network continued to show those episodes until 1972. One of those episodes had the villainess of the show, Witchiepoo, performing in a talent show, singing,

“Oranges poragnes, who said, orange poranges, who said, oranges poranges, who said there ain’t no rhyme for oranges.”

One day, took a skirt of my mother’s and wrapped it around me like a cape, and put on her swimming wig (it was circa 1970) and i appeared in the living room in drag performing Oranges Poranges. But I didn’t understand or remember the words properly, so I sang,

“Orie orie, who say, orie orie, who say”

It wasn’t one of the great moments of drag performance, but it was a clear affirmation of who I was and how my life was going to unfold.

Well, Your’e Just in Love, Age of Aquarius, and a mangled rendition of Oranges Poranges were the songs I found in me from almost the start of my life. You have songs in you, too.

I can prove it…join in when you’re ready:
When i was just a little girl, I asked my mother, what would I be.
Will i be pretty
Will i be rich
Here’s what she said to me:
Que sera sera, whatever will be will be,
the future’s not ours to see, que sera sera,
what will be will be.

You just experienced and expressed the power of the 150th Psalm.
Psalm 150 encourages us to break out in song.

Whatever we share in joy, is praise.
Peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars? That is an affirmation of the power of peace and love, and praise for its expression.

Oranges poranges? That is a refusal to be limited by other people’s perceived limitations, and a celebration of the human imagination.

Que sera sera? An affirmation that ultimately, all is well, and feeling gratitude for it.

Psalm 150 says praise God with trumpets. When you make sound joyfully…that’s praise.
Praise God with harp and lyre and flute and crashing cymbals.

Some people will have an out of body experience if they hear bagpipes. I think bagpipes sound like a weapon of war…but if you love it, then when you play them you are singing a love song to God, or to life, or to the field of infinite possibilities.

The thumpa thumpa of gay dance clubs, the chants of childhood games, and the haunting sounds of Gregorian chants…are all ways of praising life and its source.

No instrument is too vulgar or too obnoxious according to Psalm 150.
Trumpet and harp and lyre and tambourine and cymbals, as well as singing and dancing…all praise God simply by being what they are. When you are what you really are, God is praised and you are raised.

Religion is too often mean, and shaming, and cruel. and that doesn’t honor God.
Joy, hope, generosity, love, kindness, show tunes, Halloween block parties…those things honor god. #ADifferentKindOfChurch

And let me say this about praise…God isn’t something separate from us with an ego that needs stroking.

We are part of God, so when we find joy, embrace hope, express love…that honors, delights, praises God, because God gets to express more perfectly in, through, and as us.

What better pat on the back could we give God than to give joyful expression to God in our world?

Have you ever said to your dog or cat, “Good girl”? Just praise just because you love her? She may give you a tail wag or a purr, but notice how great you feel, too.
A word of praise blesses the one to whom it is offered, but it feels good to the giver ,also. When we praise, we are raised.

We praise God by expressing God.
We praise God is by living our best lives, by being happy, by being generous and kind, by dancing and banging on cymbals and belting out show tunes.

Let everything that breathes praise God, and when we love ourselves and one another, when we rejoice in who we are, when we find the song within us and let it out…we are praising God, and as we praise, we are raised. And this is the good news. amen. .

God’s light guides me, alleluia!
God’s love enfolds me, alleluia!
God’s power sustains me, alleluia!
I am always in God’s presence, alleluia!
I give praise and I am raised.
Alleluia!
Amen.

We Can Do It

On October 6, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

We Can Do It
Exodus 1.8-14; 3.1-15
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

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.

Jesus said blessed are those who show mercy, but empire, however much it may try to weaponize and monetize the name of Jesus, rarely supports the Christ values of mercy, justice, and love.

The Egyptians showed no mercy to the Israelites. That’s what we read in the opening chapter of Exodus. The empire, the superpower, was unmerciful toward the religious minority, unmerciful to the descendants of immigrants and refugees, unmerciful toward exploited laborers, unmerciful toward the oppressed.

Then in Exodus 3, Moses is called to speak out against empire’s cruelty to vulnerable populations. Moses is called to challenge empire and encourage the oppressed. Moses says, “But who am I?” And God says, “The important thing is who I am.”

God is the word that sums up ultimate meaning and our search for meaning.
God is the life within us.
God is connection between all lives.
God is the universal presence in which we all live.

Something so ubiquitous, and eternal, requires almost countless myths and symbols and names to help us give voice to our experience of It.

But of all the names for God, the simplest is also the most profound, and that is the name shared in today’s story: I Am.

Who shall I say sent me to challenge injustice, to confront cruelty, to lead people to a more hopeful future?
Who am I to do it and by whose authority could I do it?

And the answer is, “I Am.”

From a light that will not be extinguished, the name of God is given and it is I Am.

Moses is an exile; he went from being a prince to being a shepherd.
And he encounters a burning thorn bush in the desert.

Where is God in the story? In the fire. In the thorns.
When we are in pain or fear or confusion, where is God?
God is in the pain. God is in the doubt. God is in the chaos.
God is in the thorns. God is in the fire.
Even in our desert experiences, God is there; there’s not a spot where God is not.

In the story, God says, “I have seen the troubles of my people.”
God says, “I have heard their cries.”
God says, “I know their pain.”

Where is God when everything sucks? Watching, listening, knowing, caring.
We are never alone with our challenges. There is a love that will never let us go. There is a presence watching over us. There is a strength that is giving us endurance. There is a wisdom guiding us forward.

There is a voice in the thorns, there is grace in the fire, there is a presence in the desert…we are not alone and there is something good still to come.

I Am is God’s name, and so I Am never alone.
I Am never without comfort.
I Am never without strength equal to the moment of need.
I Am never on my own…a band of angels is coming after me, because God sees, God hears, God knows, and God responds. I Am hopeful and I Am grateful because God is I Am.

God is life.
God is light.
God is hope.
God is strength.
God is love.
God is.

Isness. Our isness: That’s what I Am means.

Who am I to challenge abuse and call for healing and try to empower the marginalized?
I Am.

How can I try to make a difference.
Because I Am!

I Am is God in me.
I Am is my call to action.
I am part of God because God is I Am.

So, never say I am worthless.
Never say I am a loser.
Never say I am a lost cause.
Never say I am a wreck.
Cancel all that self-abusive BS. Cancel, cancel, cancel.
Never follow “I Am” with anything negative because to do so is to use God’s name in vain.

I am a person of sacred value.
I am God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.
I am part and parcel of God.
I am part of the creation God calls very good.
I am wise and wonderful.
I am loved, loving, and lovable.

That’s the proper use of God’s name; that’s honoring and praising God and God’s handiwork.

In the 1950s a Baptist minister, Rev. William H. Borders wrote a poem to encourage the poor and disposed of his city. The poem because a tool of the civil rights movement and in 1971 the Rev. Jesse Jackson recited the poem masterfully on Sesame Street. It was a brilliant and theologically sound use of the divine name, I Am.

Rev. Borders wrote, and Rev. Jackson shared:

“I am Somebody!
I may be poor, But I am Somebody.
I may be young, But I am Somebody.
I may be small, But I am Somebody.
I may have made mistakes, But I am Somebody.
My clothes are different, My face is different, My hair is different, But I am Somebody.
I am Black, Brown, or White. I speak a different language.
But I must be respected, protected, never rejected. I am God’s child!
I am somebody.”

I am Somebody.
I Am that I am.

That offers great ability, and great responsibility.

Look one more time at Ex. 3.

God said to Moses:
I have seen their troubles…
I have heard their cries…
I know about their pain…
Now I will go and lead them…I am sending you to Pharaoh. Go! Lead my people.

I’ll go – YOU go.
I’ll lead – YOU lead.
I’ll fix it – Get to fixing it.

God sees, God hears, God knows, and God will do something about it…in, through, and as Moses.

How can I stand up to oppression?
How can I make a difference?
How can I resist cruelty and hate and greed?
I can and I must…My hands are God’s hands.
What God does for us, God must do through us.

I see. I hear. I know, I care. I’ll fix it, as soon as the you part of I get to work.
That’s God’s message to Moses.
That’s God’s message to us.

We can do it.
Because we are God in action.
God sees. God hears. God knows. God cares. And God is saying to us, “We can do it. Let’s get busy.”
And when we answer the call, Empire cannot keep us from the land of promise, a future with infinite possibilities.

And this is the good news. Amen.

I am Somebody.
I am God’s child.
I am how God is helping and healing our world.
I am God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.
Alleluia!
Amen.