Friday, April 19, 2019

From Trauma to Triumph (A Good Friday Reflection)

From trauma to triumph
by Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
“Perhaps Jesus would have preferred less than a long night of trauma in Gethsemane or less than three days in the tomb. Yet, in the midst of the dark hours…and…the lonely days and nights…life and light were active and miracles were happening…It is in the midst of weakness that you are made strong. In fear-filled times you are given courage. In trauma you are brought into serenity. In discouragement you find faith.” Mary L. Kupferle

I do not for a single moment believe that Jesus was predestined to be tortured to death. Jesus was killed by imperial powers the same way many others were. What is worthy of celebration isn’t that Jesus was tortured to death, but that the cruelty that tried to silence him and stifle the hope he gave to so many, failed. Yes, he suffered, but he still lives…in story, in song, in scripture, in ritual, in our imaginations, in every act of kindness, empowerment, mercy, and justice that we perform in his name. God doesn’t send the horrors, but God gives us the courage to face them, and miraculously, to even rise above them. Good Friday doesn’t enshrine trauma, it points toward triumph. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

Hope will prevail. Miracles are at hand. And so it is.


Tenebrae Service at Sunshine Cathedral tonight at 7 pm (4/19/19)
1480 SW Ninth Ave
Fort Lauderdale
SunshineCathedral.org 

Friday, March 22, 2019

WHAT I MEAN WHEN I SAY JESUS IS LORD

WHAT I MEAN WHEN I SAY JESUS IS LORD
As a Christian, my affirmation of faith is “Jesus is Lord.” That doesn’t mean he is divine (though, in my theology of omnipresence, we are all in and part of the divine Presence); it means my very faith vocabulary and experience is a challenge to empire, autocracy, and oppression. It means that in a world where Caesar was Lord of the vast empire, a group of subjects, slaves, and peasants dared to call someone else “Lord”, and the person they chose was a carpenter/fisher/possibly illiterate itinerate preacher/Palestinian Jew from an occupied territory. 

Caesar’s empire killed “Lord” Jesus and his admirers insisted that somehow, he didn’t stay dead! In story and ritual and imagination and personal experience, he was still around (and remains so). So, calling Jesus “Lord” is an affirmation that significance isn’t limited to earthly/physical years, and it is a rebuke of empire, injustice, and cruelty.

It occurs to me, then, that one cannot have Jesus as Lord and be a fan of unbridled militarism, systemic racism, legalized discrimination against Queer folk, colonization of women’s bodies, or tyrannical narcissism in seats of power. If Jesus is Lord, Caesar ain’t...whether he wears a crown or a red ball cap. 

There is, obviously, a sentimental and personal devotion involved in calling Jesus “Lord” as well. 

Jesus loved the unloved, touched the untouchable, saw and heard the marginalized, offered hope to the hopeless, and helped the broken and dis-eased to feel whole again. For Jesus to be Lord means that we value compassion, kindness, tolerance, inclusivity, and hospitable welcome. 
For Jesus to be Lord means we want bridges rather than walls. 
For Jesus to be Lord means we hurt when we see others hurting. 
For Jesus to be Lord means a healing touch (medical care) for everyone who needs it. 
For Jesus to be Lord means that we would never and could never consider crushing the spirit of someone because of their heritage, the way they pray, or who they love. 
For Jesus to be Lord means affirming the sacred value of ALL people.

It’s too easy to make Jesus the distant face of a more distant god, and it doesn’t make the world kinder, healthier, safer, or more joyful. I won’t reduce Jesus to a deity...for me, he’s Lord! 

Too many people worship their fears and hatreds and call them God, and many call that god “Jesus.” But if Jesus is Lord, then we will work ceaselessly for the oppressed, the marginalized, the forgotten, the weak, the hurting, the wounded, the hungry, the sick, the refugee, the asylum seeker, the justice seeker, the bullied, the shamed, the shunned, and all the so-called “least of these.”

The oldest creed of the Jesus Movement is “Jesus is Lord.” It remains the cry of my heart, and the motivation for how I wish and try to live in the world. And if Jesus is Lord, then we still have a lot of work to do.

—Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Sunshine Cathedral

Fort Lauderdale, FL USA 

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Musings of a Pro-Choice Pastor

Pastor Durrell says: “If you celebrate Abraham’s ’faithfulness’ for being willing to slaughter his own child,
If you are unaware of or unconcerned about Jephthah’s sacrificing his own daughter,
If you use Sodom and Gomorrah (a story void of love or romance or attraction) to condemn gays but have no problem with Lot’s willingness to sacrifice his daughters to a rape gang only later to commit incest with them himself,
If you ignore the passage in Exodus that says if two men fighting cause a pregnant woman to miscarry, a fine must be paid - unless the WOMAN is inured, then its ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life, hand for hand, foot for foot’,
Or if you’re Christology involves the belief that a deity required the brutal execution of ’his’ (sic) Son (and that’s somehow a good thing)...
Then your opposition to a woman’s freedom to make her own procreative health choices is not about the bible. There are child sacrifices in sacred scripture that you find laudable, and there is no passage forbidding fetus removal or early pregnancy termination.
Your belief may be sincere and even passionately held, but a biblical mandate it is not.
Please stop using religion to colonize women’s bodies.
Let’s create a world where the need for abortion is rare. In the meantime, men should not ever get the final decision about women’s choices.” (dw)

#ProChoicePastor

Friday, December 14, 2018

Why I Resist Trump

Saddam Hussein, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Idi Amin...If more people had resisted them before they became super powerful, brutal, autocratic dictators, history might have unfolded a bit differently. My opposition to Trump is not partisan. I don’t reject him because he’s on “the other team”...I reject him because he is a danger to decency, justice, fairness, equality, and peace. I am not a member of his party (and neither was he for most of his life), but I didn’t wake up in a deep, despondent depression on Nov. 9, 2016 because I’m a tax and spend liberal who doesn’t believe Science is Satan’s tool and who believes compassion is not a sign of weakness and my lady lost (with 3 million more votes than the so-called winner...though that fact is galling)...I woke up in deep despair because an incompetent, soulless, psycho rode a wave of racism, xenophobia and corruption to immense power and I was honestly scared.  We will have R and D presidents and they will do things I agree with and things I don’t...my 100% rejection of Trump has nothing to do with that. My rejection of Trump is my chance to say I did what I could when I could to prevent an Idi Amin (who was in power for 8 years...may that not even be an option for us!) from ruling with unchecked brutality in my own country.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

My Not Very Lefty Attitude Toward Bush 41

My possibly controversial attitude toward the passing of President Bush. 

Full disclosure (and unless we met 10 minutes ago, you know this already): I am not a member of the Republican Party. I have never voted for a GOP candidate who was running opposed by a Democrat. I have only voted for Democratic presidential candidates (so far). I believe we need and deserve and can afford a strong social safety net. I believe war should be avoided whenever possible. I believe the government should try to protect the environment. I believe health care is a right, and higher education should be affordable. No person who works full time should ever be living below the poverty line. I am pro-choice (realizing that even “choice” implies privilege that not everyone has).  I am a person of faith and cherish the freedom of religion, AND, I am furious that “religious freedom” is misapplied and intentionally misunderstood to protect and promote a variety of prejudices and injustices. Reasonable gun safety legislation is desperately needed. I hold the radical view that LGBTQ citizens are entitled to equal protection and equal opportunity and are, in fact, fully human. And, the Reagan-era silence and apparent apathy in the face of AIDS was almost unforgivable, and certainly cost many lives. Had the sufferers not been largely gay folk, I honestly believe the response would have been swifter and more compassionate. So...you know, a hard right winger I ain’t. 

That being said, my own health and sanity depend on a level of grace, a measure of forgiveness, a need to see more than misdeeds when evaluating a human life, especially a life that was dedicated (in whatever flawed way) to public service. 

I do NOT share the ever so popular view that Reagan was a great leader. He was charming and patriotic and eloquent, and often, wrong. 

At this point in my life, I can say absolutely nothing positive about Donald Trump. I hope I grow to a point where I can one day say something good about him, but I find him to be the least qualified, least moral, and most dangerous person to occupy the WH in my lifetime. But I tire of hating him, and I do pray that I am or will evolve to the point of being able to pity him, forgive him (and those who enable him), and look to a future filled with hope.

I am more gracious when it comes to Bush 41. I did NOT vote for him. I AM aware of a series of things that I think he could have done better. I am also aware of things he did well. I believe his intention was to serve honorably. I am not excusing his mistakes or misjudgments, I’m simply not reducing his life to them. I know many of my friends and fellow liberals are outraged by him, but I’m so tired of hatred and rage and despair and regret...I am NOT chastising anyone who feels entitled to such feelings or who feels that such feelings are the only feelings available to them, but I am saying that for me, for my peace of mind, I have to be able to honor his service and let him depart this world with dignity and peace. No one has to share my view, but I hope those who don’t will understand that it is also a legitimate path. Our complex world offers very few all right vs. all wrong answers...we’re all just to trying our best to make meaning in the midst of chaos. 

I have personally been hurt, betrayed, insulted, deceived by people, and anger is natural. Trust is sometimes destroyed forever. But eventually, I find myself being willing to be willing to forgive...if only because the anger is too exhausting and I’m getting too old to haul it around all the time. If I can forgive, or try to forgive, or be willing to allow forgiveness to overtake me when it comes to people in my life who proved untrustworthy, then I can probably forgive well meaning, flawed, sometimes myopic political leaders who deal with pressures, challenges, and choices I will never face. That’s not a pass to all A-holes, but it is a declaration that at some point, I have to let the A-holes go so that they don’t continue to hurt me because I am keeping them active in my own head. 


I voted for Dukakis. I voted for Clinton. Bush 41 wasn’t my candidate, but he was my president.  And so to President Bush I can say, “Rest in peace.”  And that actually gives me some peace.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Prayers Make a Difference

So here’s a delightful observation I made yesterday (my birthday). 

Of course there were the copious wishes for a happy birthday (and it was happy, and the wishers of happiness certainly contributed to that fact!). There were also lots of prayers, affirmations, and blessings.  It reminded me of how tangible the energy of kindness is, how savory goodwill is, how delicious love is, and how intentions travel on currents of thought and feeling to actually touch and uplift those for whom they are offered. 

We all pray in different ways, but the methods are secondary to the intent. Good wishes, affirmations, invocations of hope, expressions of love, and requests made of a Universal Presence all contribute to something wonderful being shared in the world. So, I am grateful for the good wishes and blessings yesterday (and some have continued today...every day is a good day to offer a blessing) and for the reminder that prayers of every sort make a difference. Keep praying, y’all. Not just for me, but for whoever may cross you mind today. It’s good business!

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Midterm Election Prayer

Midterm Election Prayer
By Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

Spirit of shared life,
In the United States it is election time again.
It is time to choose our House of Representatives, a third of our Senate, and many of our governors and local officials.
We can’t ask you to do what we will not, but we can invite you into our thinking, into our actions, into our attitudes, and into our service.
It is both a right and a responsibility of all citizens to vote.
May we have the courage to resist voter suppression.
May we have the desire to participate in shaping the direction of our nation.
May we know that our votes matter, and are needed.
And may we vote according to conscience and character.
May our votes be influenced by both head and heart.
May our votes protect equality, promote justice, preserve peace, and proclaim a respect for the dignity of all people.
Inspire us to vote in this election, and in every election that follows.
May we do our best to be our best, in the name of all that is good and holy. Amen.