Monday, January 31, 2011

Social Justice Sermons
"Happiness Is..."
A frank look at homophobic violence throughout the world, along with a call to action, affirmation, and words of hope.
"We Will Not Be Silent"
Another social justice sermon

Progressive Religious Resources: Discussion Topics

Sharing the Light
Watch these episodes (and others) of Sharing the Light on the Sunshine Cathedral You Tube channel. Sharing the Light is a 10 minute talk show where spiritual, theological, ethical, and social issues are discussed by Sunshine Cathedral ministers.

God Within: What Do We Mean?

Letting God Be Bigger Than Our Prejudices

Can Progressive Churches Thrive?

Bullying & Gay Teen Suicides

God is Not a Bully

Can We Follow Jesus Without Worshiping Him?

Anti-Muslim Violence Isn't Christian

Is There a Chance That Jesus Was Gay?

Progressive, Positive, Practical Spirituality FAQs

Does God Like Gay People?

Why Talk About Sexuality?

Is Jesus Relevant for LBGT People?

Do Progressive Christians Believe in Jesus?

The Danger of Biblolatry

The Danger of the Closet

Why Isn't Everyone Healed by Prayer?

Can We Agree to Disagree About Same-gender Love?

Hate the Sin...Love the Sinner?

Gay & Christian

Why Does God Allow Evil?

Where Do We Go When We Die?

Affirming Gay Outreach

Queer Bible Study

Gay Images of God

Integration of Sexuality & Spirituality

Can Gays Pray?

Why Healthy Religion Must Confront Heterosexism?

Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality?

Is the Bible the Word of God?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

We Have Work To Do

We Have Work to Do

My dear friends,

I am in my office spending some time in reflection about recent events. It seems clear to me that our work is as important and as needed as it ever has been.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our day to day routines, we forget that as a church and as a movement we have a high calling, and that calling is to work for justice for all people, to affirm the sacred value of all people, and to heal the wounds that many people carry in their souls. We are sometimes tempted to let ourselves be distracted from that mission, but we can't give in to that temptation. The world needs us too badly. Lives depend on us answering our noble call. Lives are enriched and sometimes literally saved when we say yes to the call to be what we are meant to be.

On Thursday (Jan. 27th), Rev. Brian Hutchison and I spoke to a group of about 50 undergraduate students at Nova Southeastern University on the topic of religion and homosexuality. Most of the students were heterosexual, evangelical, and had anti-gay biases. One was a PFLAG mom, but most were young adults who felt very strongly that same-gender love and attraction is evil. Their oppressive theologies were so much a part of how they identified themselves and how they understood their world. I realized that unless we do more to help people challenge their prejudices more pain will be inflicted on far too many people in our world. We have work to do.

On Wednesday (Jan. 26th), we hosted a guest speaker, Ms. Val Kalende from Uganda. Uganda is a very unsafe place for LBGT people and she is currently in seminary in Cambridge, MA. As soon as she landed in Ft Lauderdale she learned that her friend and fellow activist David Kato had been brutally murdered in his own home. Homohatred, promoted by oppressive theology, is killing people all over the world. We have work to do.

We continue our work in Jamaica where people are often killed simply for being gay. We have work to do.

We continue to encourage people who have been estranged from their families or ostracized from their previous churches because they happen to be gay or lesbian or transgender. There is so much pain to heal. We have work to do.

Homophobia continues to fuel bullying which becomes so unbearable that many youths attempt suicide. We have to let them know that God is not a bully and those who bully in God's name are using God's name in vain. We have work to do.

People still struggle to live well with HIV, depression, and other conditions. They often find that a supportive, loving worship community helps them live better and with more joy. We need to let such people know we are here for them. We have work to do.

A well known megachurch televangelist with a huge international following recently said publicly that same-gender love and attraction is a sin. By continuing to dehumanize and condemn people in the name of God, the extreme right fuels violent attitudes (and actions) that are hurting people deeply. We must get a better message out to people. We have work to do.

A national fast-food chain (and other businesses for that matter) has given large amounts of money to protect marriage inequality. Places that take our money then spend that money to oppress us! We must be careful not to support such business and to work even harder for fairness and equality for all people. We have work to do.

Ours is not a movement designed just to make us feel good, special, comfortable, or at ease. Of course we should feel good about ourselves and celebrate our sacred value, and then we must share the light of that healing experience with the world. We have work to do.

Sunshine Cathedral, through our website, our publications, our classes, our worship services, our sermons, our emails, our public speaking engagements, our arts programming, our support of our global denomination (MCC), our guest speakers, and by means of every ministry possible will continue to resist oppressive theologies, to affirm the sacred value of all people, and to offer hope to those who have been most wounded by prejudice and marginalization. Your support of your Sunshine Cathedral is giving embodiment to the life-giving Spirit of Love, and that Love is very much needed in our world right now. Thank you for all you do. Remember, we still have work to do, and as we remember why we exist and what our high calling is, we will accomplish our divine purpose and the world will be better because we have been active in it.

Together, we are God's love in action. Your pledge to support Sunshine Cathedral will enrich, empower, and even save lives. Thank you for your commitment.


Rev. Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div., D.Min.
Senior Pastor
Sunshine Cathedral

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Our God of Abundance

Our God of Abundance
by Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

"The 12 gates were 12 pearls, each of the gates made from a single pearl; and the street of the city was of pure gold..." Revelation 21.21

When times get tough, many of us develop the habit of scarcity thinking. Sometimes we forget that ours is a God of abundance. The picture painted in Revelation of God's dwelling is quite opulent! Gates of pearl and streets of gold might be garish to our sensibilities, but they clearly represent abundance. And that dwelling is actually within us, which shows what great spiritual and emotional resources we have at our command!

Jesus is thought to have said, "Give and gifts will be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over..." (Luke 6.38).

The point is we live in an abundant universe. We have something to share because we've been given so much.
I once served a church where a woman on a fixed income gave only a small (but consistent) amount of her income to church each month. However, she also recycled aluminum cans and paper and gave all her recycling money to the church. She also volunteered as the church receptionist (saving the church a lot of money) and she attended church every single Sunday. Though her income was modest, she found ways to give very generously of time, talent, and treasure! She knew she had something to give, and she experienced great joy supporting the church she loved as best she could. She knew that she served a God of abundance, and she trusted God to help her contribute to something meaningful in her life while still having enough to meet her needs.

The prophet Malachi imagined God saying to those who share generously, "Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon you without measure?"

Now I'm not a prosperity preacher promising that if you give a certain amount to a particular ministry you'll become instantly, magically wealthy. We should give out of love, joy, and with a passion for the work to which we are contributing. But I do believe in a God of abundance, and when we trust God's abundance and share our own, we find we are participating in the divine economic plan. When we give to church, charity, or even to people we love, we feel good, don't we? We are blessed to bless others! The more joy, goodwill, hope, and help we give, the closer we feel to God and the better we feel about ourselves. We need not give more than we can afford; neither should we give less than we can honestly spare. When we give joyously, we tend to reap an abundant harvest of even more joy.

To become wealthy, speak to a financial advisor. But to feel blessed, be a blessing to others. As one great gospel song says, "You can't beat God giving; no matter how you try." As we give time, talent, and treasure to church, charities, and causes we believe in, we find that we receive so much more than we give. We're giving hours and dollars, but we are receiving spiritual growth and joy. And you really can't beat that.

- Prayer -
God of abundance,
Help me to see and seize the good that you have already ordained for me to have.
Give me the grace to know I have something to share.
Bless me to be a blessing to others.
And as I bless others, fill my heart to overflowing with great joy.

"It is more blessed to give than to receive." Acts 20.35

7 Step Strategy for Spiritual Growth

A 7 Step Strategy for a Happy New Year!
Rev. Durrell Watkins, MA, MDiv, DMin
Sunshine Cathedral Sermon for Jan. 2, 2011
Sirach 24.1-12; John 1.14

This is for us Epiphany Sunday. Epiphany recalls the story of the Magi traveling from Persia, following the guidance of their astrological arts, and discovering the Christ on their own journey. And then, they returned home by a different route the scriptures say. They were still Magi, still Persian, still astrologers, but they also knew they could do something new, something different. They could be themselves and still grow, still learn, still change. They followed the light of a star, discovered the light of a child, and returned home with their own Inward Light trying a new route. This is not only a new year, it is a new season and with the newness comes a reminder that our past need not determine our future and that unlimited possibilities exist for us.

If we believe that God is near us, within us, expressing through us, then we naturally expect that good things are possible for us.

St. Paul said to the Philippian Church, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me" (Phil. 4.13). I can do all things through the Divine Idea, the holy Wisdom, the anointing of God's presence...that Christ Principle that I see in Jesus which is also in me, I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me!

An epiphany is a realization or intuitive discovery and that is actually what we see in our readings this morning.
Sirach is a book that is found in Catholic bibles but that may not be well-known by many Protestants. Still, it is part of the wisdom tradition and it was part of the Septuagint, the bible that Jesus and the early church knew. And in the reading from that ancient text, we see the Wisdom of God covering the earth like a mist. She is universally accessible. She is everywhere and can be discovered by anyone.

We find this same message in the passage that we heard from John's gospel. John doesn't use the word wisdom, but rather the Greek word "logos" which is translated as "Word" in the passage, but logos is more than a word. Logos is what the Greek philosopher Heraclitus called the Reason or the Order of the universe; the Law of life. Centuries after Heraclitus proposed his Logos philosophy, the early church adopted it and applied it to their understanding of Christ. The divine Idea, the wisdom of God, the Christ Principle, the Law through which God operates is what they are calling Logos and they are seeing Jesus as the example of this Logos Principle. In Jesus, we see God at work in human life. In Jesus we see God expressing through human experience, and we learn that God is in us, expressing through us. Divine Wisdom covers the earth like a mist; She dwells among us and within us and so we are full of grace and truth, as was Jesus who demonstrated this truth to us.

The readings, while very brief, are very affirming that God is accessible. Wherever we are, God is! And if God is All Good, and God is the All-in-all, then whatever Good we can imagine is somehow, in some measure, within our reach.

Today is the first Sunday in a new year.
We have a blank canvass on which to paint. God is with us, dwelling among and within us, covering our lives like a gentle mist, and with the power of this universal, divine presence we can do amazing things. What is the picture that we will create for ourselves in 2011?

Are you ready for a time of spiritual renewal? Are you ready to grow more than you ever have? Are you ready to stretch your faith, express your gratitude, increase your hope, and embrace your joy? We can; this beginning of a brand new year is the perfect time to begin.

I am proposing a 7 Step Strategy for us that will help us grow spiritually, will help us experience more hope and more joy, and will help us live into the blessed life that God wants for all us.

Step 1: Let's complain less. I wish I had all my energy back that I have wasted complaining about things over the years. You can't complain and be happy at the same time; so it stands to reason that the more we complain, the more unhappy we'll tend to be. Rarely ever does complaining lead to anything constructive. Constant complaining is just a habit and its one that I intend to avoid this year. Will you join me? Will you help me? Will you let me help you? Can we remind ourselves throughout the year that we can break the bonds of negativity and practice goodwill, direct dealing, creative sharing, and honest integrity? Let's celebrate what is good more than we obsess about what isn't to our liking. Let's be grateful for possibilities rather than depressed about failures. Let's look for reasons to be happy rather than for opportunities to perpetuate the habit of complaining. In all areas of our lives, let's just choose to complain less.

Step 2: Let's take better care of ourselves. If you haven't had a physical in over a year, get a check up as soon as possible. If you haven't been to a dentist in a year or two, make an appointment. If you haven't had an HIV test lately, isn't it time? And I'm not just talking to men; and I'm not just talking to gay men.
Get more rest. Get more exercise. Do something fun. Drink more water. Drink less alcohol. Consider smoking less, or try quitting. Let's love our bodies by taking care of them and let's be grateful for the ways they take care of us.

Step 3: Let's pray daily. Not just when things are tough. Not just rote prayers that we learned as children. But take time every day to sit in silence, commune with spirit, access the light within and listen for the still small voice. Affirm blessings, give thanks for all that you have and for all that you are, and think of your loved ones and wish them well. Bless those on the Sunshine Cathedral prayer list. Use the Spirit & Truth reflections. Just commit to praying every day.

Step 4: Let's practice forgiveness. Yes, you may have messed up. Make amends if you can. Do better from now on. But stop beating yourself up over what can't be undone. Yes, someone may have hurt your feelings; maybe intentionally, maybe not. You can stew about it and plot your revenge and be miserable, or you can say, "thank God that is behind me; I'm ready to move forward now and embrace happiness again." I know it's easier said than done sometimes; I know we all struggle with it now and again. And I know if I want to experience God's best, I'll have to stop holding onto what is unlike God's best. That means we have to release the past to the past. We have to forgive and move forward with hope and goodwill. And we can, we all can, through the Christ which strengthens us. We pray every Sunday, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." Now, let's mean it. Let's live it. Let's move forward into the Epiphany light.

Step 5: Let's worship regularly. Come to church. Sing the songs of praise. Come to the altar for prayer and stand with those who are also seeking guidance, comfort, wisdom and strength. There is no magic in the oil, no secret power in the words, but there are miracles in the sharing of love together. Be open to new insights and inspiration. Lovingly give an offering. Participate in Communion at whatever level you feel comfortable. Be renewed by the frequent experience of communal worship.

Step 6: Let's trust God with our giving. Stewardship isn't fundraising (in fact, when we get stewardship right, we won't have any need for fundraising). Stewardship isn't a tip we give for good service, or that we withhold to show disapproval. Stewardship isn't a way to buy God's favor. It isn't bartering, it isn't gambling, and it isn't is simply the joy of being consistently generous. Stewardship is the awareness that we are blessed and we want to express gratitude for our blessings by contributing to our faith community where we are challenged when we are comfortable and comforted when we face challenges. Stewardship is saying, God has given me so much, and through me, I want God to bless others; and so as an act of worship I will give faithfully, generously, and joyfully. I'm going on record right now to say that my commitment to myself, to the God of my understanding, and to you is to give 10% of my income to this church in 2011 because I believe in what it stands for and in what we are trying to do and because I believe what Jesus said, "Where your treasure is there will your heart be also." By giving our best as an act of worship, we grow and begin to express our highest potential in life.

Step 7: Let's be more optimistic. Hope is a beautiful gift and we really ought to use it more. Believe in yourself. Believe the best about others. Believe in your church. Believe we can reach more people than ever before with a message that is progressive, positive, and practical. Believe in the future. Believe that you can achieve more this year than you did last year. Believe you have something to offer the world. Believe in your sacred value that no situation or circumstance can take away. We are responsible for our own happiness and for our own spiritual growth. No one can do it for us. We have to do it for ourselves, and for us to be able to do it for ourselves, we have to believe we can. We're here to encourage one another, but we each must do our own work, and to even try we need to have hope. We must have hope that we can grow, heal, and achieve. Hope for the best and give the best a chance to manifest in your experience. Amazing blessings are possible, so let's dare to hope for them in 2011.

If we will give up the habit of complaining, take good care of ourselves, pray daily, forgive ourselves and others for mistakes and misdeeds, worship weekly, give generously, and practice being optimistic all the time, then we can be assured of a happy 2011 and together, we will experience miracles and we'll share those miracles with our world. This is a wonderful opportunity for us and this is the good news! Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2011

It's a new year with new opportunities.
I release the past to the past.
I am free to expect and experience the very best.
I take responsibility for my joy.
And I declare 2011 to be a year of miracles.

"The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate." Oprah Winfrey

Friday, January 14, 2011

Maryland Looks at Gay Marriage
"when Republicans are calling for civil unions you know the marriage train has left the station."
article from the Washington Blade

Tucson & the myth of redemptive violence
Read this blog about Tucson & the myth of redemptive violence.
The fifth response on the blog is mine:

Rev. Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div., D.Min. said...
"I appreciate the challenge that violence cannot lead to healing, peace (salvation!). Until we unpack our atonement theologies, many in the Christian tradition will continue to worship violence by insisting that Jesus' brutal execution was divinely ordained and redemptive. If we attribute violence to God and celebrate it (drowning the Egyptian army, demanding the willingness to sacrifice Issac, requiring the slaughter of Jesus to redeem humanity, etc.), then how can we ever hope to be less violent that the One in whose image we are created. When we let our God be one that does't delight in violence, maybe we will find ourselves being a little less violent as well."
January 14, 2011 9:54 AM