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, […]

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.

The Day of the Lord

On November 19, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

The Day of the Lord Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Nov. 19, 2017 Let us dwell together in peace, and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. Prophets of doom are no prophets at all. Prophets speak on […]

The Day of the Lord
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Nov. 19, 2017

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

Prophets of doom are no prophets at all.
Prophets speak on behalf of God and God is about restoration not reprisal,
about lifting up not tearing down,
God wants resurrection not devastation,
God offers returning glory not a horror story,
God offers hope not hatred,
joy and justice not fear and failure…
if the prophet has only fire, fear, shame and blame to offer then whatever he or she is selling is not the good news of God’s all-inclusive and unconditional love.

God is love and perfect love casts out fear. If fear is what we have, God wasn’t the giver…so we must keep looking.

The prophetic warnings always carry a word of hope. But we miss it sometimes. For instance, the prophet Zephaniah wrote of a terrible day of the LORD. He imagined war and destruction, chaos and confusion and dread. But even though such times to do come, it is the divine Presence that gives us hope and courage and sees us through those difficult days.
So, shortly after talking about a time of doom and gloom, the same Zephaniah in the same piece of writing says, “Shout for joy…sing joyfully…Be glad and exult with all your heart…God has…turned away your enemies…you have no further misfortune to fear.” (Zeph. 3.14-15)

The day of the Lord comes in the midst of strife and chaos, but in the end, it’s time to sing and shout. We got through the difficulty. We endured, we survived; we’re getting another chance. “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning!” (Psalm 30.5)

The Prophet Joel wrote: “Blow the trumpet…sound the alarm…Let all who dwell in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. Yes it is near, a day of…gloom…” (Joel 2.1-2)

Still, that can’t be how things end up, not if this is God’s prophet. So he continues: “Yet even now, says the [Holy One], return to me with your whole heart…rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to your God who is gracious and merciful, who does not rush to anger, who is rich in kindness…” (Joel 2.12-14)

That’s better, but it gets better yet as Joel says: “And God said, ‘I am your God…my people shall nevermore be put to shame. I will pour out my spirit upon all humankind. Your daughters and sons shall prophesy, your elderly will be dreamers, young folk will be visionaries, upon every class of people including servants…I will pour out my spirit. The sun will go dark and the moon will turn red at the coming of the day of the LORD, the great and terrible day. But everyone shall be rescued who calls on the name of the LORD…’” (Joel 2.27-32)

We’ve all faced terrible days. We’ve all faced heartache and disappointment and fear and uncertainty, but eventually, there was a new day. The sky was falling and we prayed through it, we called upon God as we understood God to help us, and God did, and now here we are. The terrible days come, and they go, and God sustains us no matter what.

The Apostle Paul borrows the Day of the Lord motif today. He and others ironically call Jesus Lord. Caesar is Lord of the empire. Rich people are lords of their household. But Jesus is a member of a peasant class in an occupied land and he is executed in the way that runaway slaves are. To call an executed enemy of the empire “Lord” is ironic, almost funny, and it is also seditious and dangerous. It empowers the downtrodden, and that makes them targets of the oppressors. And they do it anyway. Once you find your dignity, you will not let it go.

Not only does Paul call Jesus Lord, but he says that Jesus is going to return. He didn’t stay dead somehow, and if he’s not really dead he can back whenever he wants to, and that is empowering. It is a story that defeats death. Of course everyone dies, but if God is omnipresent, eternal love, then we are part of God, which means that really, no one dies, and that tends to make death seem less scary, certainly less final. I don’t want to rush it, and I miss my departed loved ones every day, but I take great comfort in knowing they aren’t gone…they are where they’ve always been, in God. They’re no longer wearing their skin suit that I would recognize, but they are still with God and still in my heart and still live on in some way with access to unfettered joy.

Instead of a day of God bringing a community through battle, Paul uses the day of the Lord to refer to the return of Christ, a symbol of God’s endless love. Paul has taken the prophets “great and terrible day of the Lord” which they associated with war and disaster (and the healing from it), and Paul has taken that phrase and reframed it as a celebration…the welcome back party for Jesus.

Don’t be afraid he says. It’s all good. There’s no reason to surrender your hope. In fact, let’s hear a few more verses than we heard earlier from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians: “You yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come…But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do…Let us…put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of [liberation]…Encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” (1 Thess 5.2-11)

The Day of the Lord is the day when we realize that we have the light, and in the light there is no darkness. The divine spark that was in Jesus is in each of us. And with that divine spark, we can face and move through and rise above whatever the world or fate or chance might throw at us.

Agnes Sanford was a famous healer. She was a lay person who prayed for people to be healed and often with remarkable results. Part of her ministry including writing, and in her book The Healing Light, Sanford wrote, “[Jesus] did return, in his holy Spirit, at Pentecost and so he returns to each of us today…We are his channels for the sending out of his redemptive love into the world.”

Christ did return…as the spirit animated body of Christ, which includes us. We are the return we’ve been waiting for, but that means we have some work to do.

When I see a disturbing rise in unrepentant, unapologetic predation among those seeking high office,
when I see people using Christianity to belittle and profane other faith traditions such as Judaism and Islam,
when I think of Transgender people being denied access to public restrooms and being targeted in the military where they bravely serve,
when I think about people being appointed to the federal judiciary who say out loud that they are opposed to equal rights for gay and lesbian people,
when I witness the names of the loving God and the liberating Christ used in vain to demonize, dehumanize, trivialize and terrify the diverse Rainbow children of God,
when I hear that since last November hate crimes have risen 500%…I am tempted to think the sky is falling, it seems like terrible days are upon us…but lift up your eyes, here comes our help, the day of the Lord is not a threat it’s a promise, a promise that love will win,
it’s a promise that fear is an opportunity to face everything and rise,
and it is a call to action, to encourage one another and to encourage the world.

Times of oppression, times when there is an open disdain for ethical leadership, times when entire groups of people are marginalized, times when oligarchy and empire seem ubiquitous and indomitable – those are the times that the prophets (including St. Paul) imagined the Day of the Lord toppling systems of oppression and allowing a new day of hope and healing to break though. The spirit of the Lord is being poured out all humanity, and where the spirit of the Lord is there is liberty!

Don’t be afraid of the day of the Lord, on the contrary, let’s declare that this is such a day! This is the day that we discover the liberating love of God in our hearts and we determine to share that love in a time when it is so needed. We are the return we’ve been waiting for…now let’s get to working some much needed miracles. This is the good news. Amen.

This is the day of the Lord.
Today God’s light shines through me.
Today God’s love energizes me.
This is a good day for a miracle.
Alleluia!
Amen.

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