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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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.

Good Neighbors

On September 30, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Good Neighbors Lk 16.19-31 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. Once upon a time… That’s basically how the gospel lesson begins today, clearly indicating that it […]

Good Neighbors
Lk 16.19-31
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.

Once upon a time…
That’s basically how the gospel lesson begins today, clearly indicating that it is a parable.

And in today’s parable, we see Lazarus winding up in the arms of Sarah and Abraham. Even when the world has no place for him, Lazarus still has a place in divine love. Being in the arms, the bosom, the embrace of the ancestors is an intimate image of love and acceptance.

If you feel lost, abandoned, discouraged, wounded, or afraid, the gospel message is that God’s love enfolds you and will never let you go.

Lazarus will never be rejected by God, but Lazarus should have never been abandoned by us, either.

Lazarus is the queer teen on the streets who was rejected by her family.
Lazarus is the trans woman of color brutally murdered for being who she is.

Lazarus is the refugee.
Lazarus is the planet whose environment is attacked in the name of profit.

Lazarus is the person who cannot find affordable, permanent housing.
Lazarus is the abused child, the neglected elder, the person working 2 jobs and still can’t afford medical care.

Lazarus is loved by God and shouldn’t have to wait until the next experience of life for that love to be shown to him.
Any of us could be Lazarus under certain circumstances, and all of us can be a better neighbor to Lazarus.

Suffering Lazarus winds up in the loving arms of the ancestors, while the greedy, cruel, selfish rich guy winds up alone and joyless in Hades. It is a parable, a fictional story meant to show us the difference in a life of love and a life of avarice, the difference between compassion and cruel indifference.

Don’t be thrown by the word “Hades” in the story. Hades has a complex history and we’d have to go back to multiple ancient cultures and mythologies to see how each contributed to the evolving Hell/Hades/Gehenna narrative, and even then, the afterlife pictures we usually conjure in our minds are more from the art and poetry of the middle ages than from scripture.

But in this case the rich man’s hell is his legacy, the mark he left on the world, how he’ll be remembered, how lives were impacted because he lived. He’s not in after life prison; he’s simply being remembered for being a jerk in life. That’s hell enough.

There is no literal hell, but people do have hellish experiences in life.
Have we responded to their hells with heavenly, healing love? That’s the question of today’s parable.

The rich man isn’t being shamed for his beliefs, religious affiliation, gender identity, sexual orientation, or even for being successful.
He’s being remembered poorly because he was greedy, selfish, and unconcerned about the suffering of others.

The author isn’t manipulating us with threats of afterlife hell; he’s challenging us to be kinder, more empathetic, and more generous here and now.

Neither the rich man character nor his experience of comeuppance are factual, but they do communicate a profound truth. If we don’t care about the person who has less privilege or more peril than we have, then we are not demonstrating the love that God is.

The founder of the Catholic Worker movement, Dorothy Day, said, “I only really love God as much as I love the person I love least.”

God is love. We can only be truly conscious of God’s presence when we are loving. The rich man didn’t let himself love. And so, he didn’t have a full experience of God which is love.

Heaven is the experience of God, and God is love. We experience God to the degree that we love.

I believe that the rich man could have been freed from his nightmare in an instant if he had simply let himself love, if he had said to himself, “I didn’t treat Lazarus, and all the Lazaruses fairly. I wish I had been kinder.” That alone, that affirmation of love and compassion would have freed him to experience the love that God is.

But instead, he clung to his privilege. He wants his family protected, no one else’s. He wants to treat Lazarus like a slave, demanding Lazarus to comfort him, though he never offered comfort to Lazarus. To the end and even beyond, the rich man cares only about himself and a few close to him. The story shows us how ugly that kind of life can be, and how isolating, and how tragic.

No one in the story even asks the rich man what he believes or what religious sect he belongs to; the only question is, why didn’t you care for the starving, homeless, sick person at your gate? Why didn’t the plight of others move you?

The only person ever in scripture said to be in a state of hell is this nameless character in a fictional story.
One nameless, fictional person mentioned exactly one time is the only person said to be in such a hell. That tells me it was never meant to be taken literally, and that religion really isn’t meant to be fire insurance.

The imaginary nameless character in the imaginary hell isn’t meant to scare the hell out of us.
It is meant to show us that a lack of love is hell.
When we don’t love, we don’t let ourselves experience God, and that is hell. But that is corrected the minute we do love.

Be good neighbors. Love your neighbor. Remember everyone is our neighbor. Care and share. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. We only really love God as much as we love the person we love least.

Let us show love to the housing insecure.
Let us show love to the food insecure.
Let us show love to the depressed.
Let us show love to the LGBTQ+ children of God.
Let us show love to the closeted and to those fearfully coming out.
Let us show love to the wounded planet.
Let us show love to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, Agnostics, Mambos, and Santeros.
Let us show love to refugees, to children, to the lonely, and to those seeking lifesaving medical care.

Today’s gospel isn’t about afterlife suffering; it’s a call to reduce suffering in this life. And we can. And I declare in Jesus’ name, we will. This is the good news. Amen.

Dear God.
We experience and express you…
When we show and share love.
Love the world through us.
Amen.

God’s Relentless Love

On September 15, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

God’s Relentless Love Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Psalm 23; Luke 15.1-7 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. God is good (all the time) All the time (God is good) God […]

God’s Relentless Love
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Psalm 23; Luke 15.1-7

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.

God is good (all the time)
All the time (God is good)
God is good (all the time)
All the time (God is good)
God is good (all the time)
All the time (God is good)
Alleluia (Amen).

Emily Dickinson wrote, “That love is all there is, is all we know of love.”

That love is all there is, is all we know of love.

God is love, and love is all there is.

So why is there so much hate, anger, fear, and ugliness in the world?

Where does evil come from and what can we do about it are questions philosophers, priests, and shamans have asked since the the dawn of consciousness. But I know this…

When I am loving, it feels good. It feels right. Love brings joy and peace and a sense of fulfillment.
When I express or demonstrate or even contemplate love, the world for those moments makes sense and I am occupying my rightful place in the universe.

When I am unloving…when I am enraged, or afraid, or bitter…no matter how justified I feel in nursing those thoughts and emotions, I do not feel “right.” Only love feels right.

I believe that is because love is all there is in truth, and when I am temporality out of truth, or unaware of truth, or in opposition to truth, then I feel conflicted because I am at odds with reality itself.

God is ultimate reality.
God is love.
Love is all there is.
So, when we are loving, we are expressing God.
When we are unloving, we are denying God, and to deny what is really real will make us out of sorts.

The religious life, the spiritual path is meant to constantly remind us that we are one with infinite Love.
We are loved by God because God is love and all love can do is love.
God can only give what God is…oranges will never give grape juice….an orange must express its truth, so an orange gives orange juice.

God is love. God must express God’s truth, so God loves. God must express what God is.

That’s what Jesus is showing us today.

First of all – Jesus is socializing with people that others labeled as sinners. They were tax collectors and they were called sinners because they were often dishonest. They were in service of an empire that conquered and exploited people, and they often got rich in that service, sometimes by padding their own nests…over charging and pocketing the difference.

Tax collectors were hated.
But Jesus found ways to love those who others hated.
Jesus accepted his unity with God, and God is love, so Jesus knew it was his job to show love, especially to those who were unloved.

Jesus tried to explain the relentless love of God with a parable. He imagines a shepherd who is in charge of 100 sheep.
One wanders away.
But the Shepherd will not lose a single lamb. Not one. And so the shepherd is relentless in finding the lamb that wandered off.

God will not, cannot lose a single soul. God’s love is relentless.
Maybe church or society or family has labeled this person or that as lost or sinful, but God loves that person and will never let them go.

God is love, and
that love is all there is, is all we know of love.

Now, Jesus does add that heaven rejoices when a sinner repents. Remember, the people called sinners in the story, and throughout the gospels, are tax collectors, and their great sin was dishonesty. They cheated people. If they were to give up their dishonesty, if they would live in the power of truth, that would make heaven happy. There would be rejoicing.

This isn’t telling people to convert from one religion to another, or to hate themselves, or to feel guilty or ashamed. It’s telling people to come out into the light and joy of truth.

When a lesbian or gay man comes out of the closet and starts living their truth openly, heaven rejoices.

When a transgender or non-binary or gender queer person speaks their truth and lives their authentic life, heaven rejoices.

When allies of queer people stand up for their LGBTQ+ loved ones and share the truth of their love for God’s Rainbow people, heaven rejoices.

When people are honest about their questions and doubts, heaven rejoices.

When people face their self-destructive habits and say, “I am powerless over this problem but I believe there is a power that can restore me to sanity”, heaven rejoices.

When we speak our truth and live in the authenticity of who we are, heaven rejoices.

That’s what it means for a sinner to repent and heaven to rejoice…it means there is holy power in living our truth.

And one truth that I want us all to embrace is this: God is love…all-inclusive, unconditional, everlasting, omnipresent love.

A god who is omnipresent love will never lose you or forget you or abandon you. God’s love will never let you go.

Bigotry, injustice, economics, disease, war, accidents, disaster…nothing can separate us from God’s love. We can tap into comfort and hope and empowerment at any time because we are surrounded by and filled with an everlasting love.

How can learn to trust that? By saying it over and over. The psalmist shows us today the power of affirmations, of reminding ourselves of God’s goodness and God’s nearness.

The LORD is my shepherd (a shepherd who will never let me wander off, who will never give up on me, who refuses to lose me); there is nothing I lack.
God restores my strength.
God guides me along the right path…
Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side…
Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life.
I will dwell in the house of the LORD…

Say it until you feel it.
Feel it until you believe it.
Believe it until you know it.

(Repeat)
God is love.
I am one with God.
God’s love cannot let me go.

There’s not a spot where God is not.
I am God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.
The past is past and the future has infinite possibilities.
There is good for me and I ought to have it.

God is my shepherd.
God restores my strength.
Only goodness and love will pursue me.
I will always dwell in God’s presence.

And this is the good news. Amen.

Divine Love is all-inclusive,
Unconditional,
Everlasting,
And omnipresent.
Alleluia!
Alleluia!
Amen.

Strategic Spirituality

On September 9, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Strategic Spirituality Rev. Anne Atwell

Strategic Spirituality
Rev. Anne Atwell

Children of God

On September 1, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Children of God Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins John 1.1-5, 14 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. I say, “God is good.” You say, “All the time.” I say, “All the […]

Children of God
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
John 1.1-5, 14

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.

I say, “God is good.”
You say, “All the time.”
I say, “All the time.”
You say, “God is good.)
After we do that three times, I’ll say, “alleluia.
And you will answer, “Amen.”
Okay?

God is good (all the time)
All the time (God is good)
God is good (all the time)
All the time (God is good)
God is good (all the time)
All the time (God is good)
Alleluia! (Amen).

Wouldn’t it be exciting if we believed God was truly good, and also, always present. What difficulty or obstacle could ever steal our joy if we believed there was an infinite goodness that was everywhere present, including right wherever we happen to be?

The gospel tells us today that God dwells among us, that the divine Idea for the universe and all that is in it was with God always and that divine Idea continues to express through all that is, including us.

The wisdom literature we find in the book of Proverbs tells us that Wisdom, or we could still say the divine Idea, is available to us and always has been.

We often think of Jesus as being the chid of God, but Franciscan spirituality suggests that creation itself is the first incarnation of God. All life is the divine Self made visible. All life is the child of God, part of God, coming from God and carrying something of God.

God is all-in-all expressing through all.
God is source and substance.
God is not a being, but Being itself, the ground of all being.

In other words, God is omnipresence.
There’s not a spot where God is not.

If God is omnipresent it means God is the one presence, the only real presence, and that means that all that is must be in and part of that presence. You and I, then, are part of God. Of course we have sacred value.

Why is this important?
Because we will welcome refugees if we see them as children of God, part of God, expressions of God.

We will never accept hunger for anyone if every person is an expression of God.

We will never let anyone be humiliated or dehumanized or abused because of their gender identity or sexual orientation if we see them as incarnations of God.

We would do everything we possibly could to prevent bombs from being dropped on children of God.

What if the word of God, the divine Idea, is made flesh, that is, is made manifest in, through, and as the physical world?
What if John’s gospel is more than adulation of Jesus, but a call to see a gleam of divine light in every life and also a call to respond with love to that light in every person?

And if we believed that WE were expressions of the divine, that we were lighthouses beaming divine grace into the world, that we were the dwellings of God…then we would seek to be generous, welcoming, comforting, forgiving…we would wish for everyone to have all that joy and good fortune we have ever enjoyed, and we would work tirelessly for justice for all.
If we knew ourselves to be children of God, we would want to demonstrate divine qualities…mercy, hope, compassion, grace.

God the angry punisher hasn’t made the world a better place God the rule maker and enforcer hasn’t made the world a better place.
God the tribal deity who prefers one group over all others hasn’t made the world a better place.
God the warrior who takes sides in conflicts hasn’t made the world a better place.
Trying to ignore God, deny God, or portray God as absent hasn’t made the world a better place.

The God who is Good News for the world is an omnipresence who cannot exclude, abandon, or condemn anyone.

And once we believe in such a God we know ourselves to be part of this God, and so we seek to be more godlike, which is more loving; and the omnipresent God must be with and within all others, and so we must treat all people with dignity and respect and fairness. Regardless of political or religious or cultural labels, we would see all people as children of God and then act accordingly.

Rabindranath Tagore taught, “Love is the only reality and it is not a mere sentiment. It is the ultimate truth that lives at the heart of creation.”

If God is love, and God is omnipresent, then Love is omnipresent. Love is everywhere and part of everything. To love, then, is the best way to honor and express God.

If you are sick today, you are not alone. There is a love that is embracing you and will never let you go.

If you are heartbroken right now, trust that there is a love that feels your every tear and is waiting with you for joy to return.

If you are struggling, know that there is a love within you that is cheering for you every minute of every day.

If you’ve made a big mistake, or dozens of them, there is a love that sees your innate goodness. Even if you haven’t always expressed it, the love that is God knows the goodness within you…the godness within you.

If the storms of life have you anxious, know that there is a love that the storms will never chase away, a love that will still be with you long after the storms have passed.

God is love, and there’s not a spot where God is not. You are from God, part of God, filled with God’s qualities; you are God’s chid. You are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.

Are you willing to know God as all good, only good, and everywhere fully present? If so, then peace, hope, and joy are available right now to bless your life.

God is good (all the time).
All the time (God is good).
Alleluia! (Amen).
And this is the good news. Amen.

I am forever part of the one All.
I am a beloved child of God.
This fills me with gratitude & joy.
And so it is!

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.

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