Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Divinity Within

Weekly Reflection by Rev. Durrell Watkins

Christ said, ‘The kingdom of God is within you.’ Truly I say to you: ‘within you’ means your true nature, the real [you]. Since your nature is [divine], the kingdom of God is only ‘within you.’ [The one] who seeks the kingdom of God without pursues a dream [and] will never find the kingdom of God…Only when you have awakened to the realm of eternal happiness within can the realm of eternal happiness be manifest without as a reflection.” – Nectarean Shower of Holy Doctrines, Holy Sutras (Seicho-No-Ie)

I’m very focused on the idea of “awakening” lately. It seems like waking up is exactly what so many of us need. Jesus reportedly said (though only the writer of the fourth gospel attributes these words to Jesus), “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Divine except by me.” The author of the Fourth Gospel wanted his audience to identify with his Jesus character. The “I” of Jesus was the example for the “I” of you and me to follow. Jesus was the example, not the exception; he demonstrated the Christ in him so that we could demonstrate the Christ in us.

What that late first century author was doing by putting those powerful words into the mouth of Jesus was saying that the way to awaken to our own Christ Nature, our own divine potential, the truth of our own sacred value is to follow Jesus’ example. Jesus communed with the divine presence without intermediaries. Jesus was iconoclastic, putting no image, tradition, symbol, or hierarchy above his own experience of Reality. Jesus trusted the spirit of Wisdom and Compassion more than he trusted inherited interpretations of ancient texts. Jesus trusted his own Christ Potential, the divine energy flowing through him, and that trust empowered him to live an awakened (or “anointed”) life.

To experience the Mystery of Life (“God”) as richly and as deeply as Jesus did, we must do what he did…trust our innate goodness and not transfer our own holiness onto things outside of ourselves. That’s what I believe “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Divine except by me” means.

As we face a troubled economy, justice issues, violence in the world, disease, global warming, and all the other disturbing circumstances in life, we may be tempted to put our trust in things, or people, or stories, or institutions. My guess is that such trust will leave us disappointed. The way to peace, the truth about peace, the life of peace comes from trusting the divine qualities within us, not from hoping something beyond us will swoop down and magically fix everything.

It’s time to wake up to our sacred value and to become less attached to the illusions “out there,” and learn to trust the goodness within us. Once we contact that Inward Light, that Christ Nature that is already our true Self, then we can share that divine Light with the world. Isn’t that exactly what our world needs right now?

Sunshine Cathedral

Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div. – Senior Pastor

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


September 22nd was the first day of Autumn. I barely noticed. Here in South Florida where trees are always green, and where 90 degree days last well into the Fall, and where I wear short-sleeved shirts year round, the seasons sometimes sneak up on me without warning.

Still, as I look out of my office window to see a gentle breeze causing the leaves on a palm tree to dance here in the land of perpetual summer, I am mindful that this really is a new season and it represents a time of harvest. Harvest is the result of what we’ve planted earlier in the year. The Autumnal Equinox reminds me to look at the harvest in my own life showing me what I have been planting in the fertile ground of my own consciousness.

The habits I have developed have led me to where I am.

The thoughts I have been thinking have contributed to my current reality. The feelings I have consistently entertained have helped create the world I’m seeing today. The relationships I have nurtured, the choices I have made, and the investments I have made in myself and in others are paying off in my experience of life.

In other words, the seeds I have been planting have produced the harvest of my life. Now I get to look at the produce of my mental fields, and if I like it, I should continue planting the same seeds. If I want more of the same, I should plant more of those psychic seeds. If I want something else, then I should consider making different choices, changing my attitudes, or thinking differently.

As this new season begins, let’s examine the harvest of our lives. And let’s decide if the mental and emotional crops we have been growing are what we really want. If there are changes we’d like to see, we can remember that change begins with us and with the seeds we plant in consciousness from now on.

Bright Blessings!

Rev. Durrell Watkins
Sunshine Cathedral

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Connection Through Religion

"When liturgy works…something truly remarkable happens. We transcend our sense of being unconnected individuals. We are lifted out of our individual isolation and transformed into a single organism…" Rabbi Harold Kushner, Who Needs God

I've chanted with Nichiren Buddhists. I've sat in deep silence with Zen Buddhists (and Zen Christians). I've observed Tibetan Buddhist rituals. I've shared Sabbats with neo-pagans. I've worshiped in Jewish synagogues.

I've enjoyed exuberant Pentecostal worship, highly choreographed Anglican and Catholic masses, and quiet Protestant services. I have listened to beautiful string quartets, contemporary readings, scriptures of world religions, and intellectually stimulating sermons in Unitarian Universalist Churches/Fellowships/Societies.

I have observed silence with Quakers, sang prayers in the Taize tradition, and prayed for peace with Baha'i devotees. I have participated in guided meditations, folk songs and show tunes, and listened to lectures about the power of mind at New Thought churches and conferences.

I have been blessed by a Santero (a priest in the Santeria tradition). And I have experienced over 35 MCC worshiping communities (no two alike).

Additionally, I am a graduate of an ecumenical seminary where I studied and worshiped with Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Buddhists, Unitarian Universalists, Quakers, and Eastern Orthodox.

Do you know what is amazing about these extremely varied religious experiences? I've encountered the Sacred in each of them! The ritual could be as simple as sitting in silence, as dynamic as uncontrolled shouting and dancing, or as mysterious as large portions of the service being offered in an ancient language (i.e., Sanskrit, Hebrew, or Latin). But in every case, I felt reverence and wonder and I felt connection to those with whom I shared the experience and even to the mystical Web of Existence to which we all belong.

In other words, regardless of what we called Ultimate Reality, and regardless of how we expressed our hopes, longings, and gratitude, that which is so often called "God" was always accessible; and sharing the experience with others was always personally enriching.

I'm religious not to appease a far away deity, and not to guarantee some privilege for my soul, but because sharing religion with others brings me hope, encouragement, challenge, and comfort. I've seen it transform people in positive ways, and I have certainly been blessed by the experience. Religion, at its best, reminds us of our unity with all life and with the sacredness that longs always to express in, through, and as us. I remain, unapologetically, religious. I invite others to explore the benefits that healthy religious experience offers.

Sunshine Cathedral
Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div. – Senior Pastor

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Prayer for September 11

The only way to bring peace to the earth is to learn to make our own life peaceful.” The Buddha

September 11th is a date that still sparks great emotion in the U.S. It is a day when we remember that extremists (motivated by religious zeal) hijacked planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center in NYC, the Pentagon, and a field in rural Pennsylvania. Since then, we have heard stories of government sanctioned torture, attacks on our own civil liberties, and on-going military conflicts in two different countries.

For seven years we have lived with war, threats, sagging morale, and a weakening economy. We’ve mourned the loss of young men and women who have been sent to fight a war on two fronts where no end is yet in sight. Once again, we find ourselves learning that we cannot fight our way to peace; or as Admiral Michael Mullin has been quoted as saying, “We cannot kill our way to victory.”

I’m tired of fighting. I’m tired of political rancor. I’m tired of war and executions and character assassinations. I’m tired of people using religion and politics as their excuses to grab power or to silence those who don’t share their opinions. I’m tired of endless discord. I’m ready for people of faith, people of every spiritual tradition, to stand up and speak up and demand that the best of our traditions begin to guide us in the ways of peace, harmony, tolerance, and goodwill. I’m ready for swords to be beaten into ploughshares. I’m ready for the blessings that are promised to the peacemakers.

Today, I wish to honor the victims of 9/11 and those who mourn the loss of their loved ones by praying for an end to the perpetuation of violence that leads neither to justice nor to closure. Today, I pray for healing for our nation and for our world. Today, I pray for peace and for leaders who will work tirelessly to lead us in the ways of peace.

Will you join me in prayer today?:
May we be filled with peaceful intentions. May we be guided by wisdom and motivated by goodwill. May we embrace and live out the promise of peace; and may peace prevail on earth. Let healing love now flow across this and every nation. And let us all again be touched “by the better angels of our nature.” Amen.

Sunshine Cathedral
Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div. – Senior Pastor