Tuesday, February 24, 2015

a different kind of suffering

A Different Kind of Suffering
 by Rev Dr Durrell Watkins

People often associate Lent with suffering. Our modern ears hear “suffer” and usually define the word to mean “pain.” But “suffer” also means “to allow.” Jesus said, “Suffer the children to come unto me,” that is, ALLOW the children to come to me. And we’ve all heard the phrase that one doesn’t “suffer fools gladly,” meaning, one doesn’t welcome (or wish to ALLOW) foolishness. As we approach the Season of Lent, let’s focus on allowance rather than pain.

At Sunshine Cathedral we don’t encourage you to make yourself miserable for a few weeks. We don’t ask you to give up chocolate or soda or to refrain from eating meat on Fridays. Of course, neither do we suggest that you eat pounds of chocolate, drink gallons of soda, or feast on meat without vegetables; after all, we want you to be healthy! But Lent isn’t about missing Snickers bars for a few weeks. Lent is about “allowing” yourself to grow spiritually, to learn, to experience more hope and peace in your life. It is a season of spiritual reflection.

Traditional Lenten disciplines include being intentional about weekly worship, being a bit more generous (“almsgiving” they used to call it), and daily prayer and meditation. And those are good practices, but they aren’t “tasks” that one performs begrudgingly out of duty. They are joyful practices meant to help you “allow” yourself to feel the presence of God within you.

So, this Lent at Sunshine Cathedral, you won’t hear about guilt and sin and shame and self-denial, but you will be encouraged to allow yourself to shine, to be your best self, to be happy and hopeful and full of life.

Suffer the Sunshine Cathedral to rejoice! That is to say, this Lent, may we who make up the Sunshine Cathedral allow ourselves to experience the joy of self-celebration and spiritual growth. Amen. 

Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) As You May Not Have Heard Them Before

Restoring God’s Good Name (Feb 22nd, 2015 – Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel, Noah)

Renewing Our Strength (Feb 8th, 2015 – Elijah)

A Love Story Too Seldom Told (Feb 1st, 2015 – Jonathan & David)

Turn that Mutha Out (Jan 25th, 2015 – Jonah)

Song of Songs (July 6th, 2014 -  Song of Songs or Song of Solomon)

Moabite Pride: Rethinking Homophobia’s Favorite Biblical Story (June 23rd, 2014 – Sodom & Gomorrah)

Friday, February 20, 2015

We Make the Systems; It's Up to Us to Improve Them

Religion at its best encourages love, peace, compassion, and kindness (same is true for other social institutions: Family, Government, Economic systems, Education)...when the social institutions promote hatred and violence, they have been defiled. Social institutions at their best lift up everyone without needing to marginalize whole groups of people. Sadly, we've seen the institutions far too seldom at their best.

Need an English to PC Dictionary

Apparently there has been yet another revision of the PC (Politically Correct) lexicon and I seem to have failed to keep up (Amazon or Google should send me automatic updates). I feel the perfect fool! If, in an attempt to be an ally to any community beyond the one(s) with which I identify most closely, I ever use dated vocabulary that you find archaic or even offensive, plz feel free to re-instruct me, but also plz assume good intentions on my part; and, if you are the first person to re-instruct me, plz be patient if I investigate further before changing my vocabulary yet again (I may not know you to be the spokesperson for your community that you know yourself to be). I will try to offer you the same grace (though anything not intentionally insulting is unlikely to rattle me too much). Of course I never want to insult anyone with my use of language and at the same time I never want to reduce our important struggles to ever-changing trendy verbiage. It's a balancing act...If I lose my balance and start to fall, just catch me and help me regain equilibrium. Meanwhile, I mostly watch TV from before PC was a concept, so, I need hipper people than I to keep me on the broad and fluid.

Two Names, One Reprehensible Organization

ISIS or ISIL? They are the same scary (terrorist) group; why the different handles? I've wondered this for weeks, but have yet to ask anyone for clarification. I think I prefer ISIL so as not to blaspheme the glorious goddess Isis (an archetype shared by Christianity's Mary and one of my fave childhood Saturday morning TV programs), but that's probably not a proper argument for one over the other.

Since originally posting this, I have learned that ISIS stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, while ISIL stands for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (preferred by those who don't want our rhetoric about the organization to suggest an attack on Syria). Also, apparently both "syria" and "the levant" are possible translations for the actual Arabic word used.

Additionally, I heard a commentator today say that he would prefer people call ISIL an Islamist state rather than an Islamic state (The former suggesting fanatical extremism and the latter representing legitimate religion practiced on the whole by sane, decent people). I'm not sure most non-Muslim Westerners would "get" the distinction, but I appreciated his wanting to distinguish between religion gone wrong and religion practiced responsibly.

A Progressive View of Lent

Lent is a reminder that Spring's a-comin' and with it warmth, beauty and renewal. It may not be here yet, but the promise that it's on the way gives us hope and comfort in the meantime. Lent isn't about guilt, shame or self-denial; it's about focusing on the infinite possibilities the future offers and choosing to move forward toward those possibilities.

Making Progress, But No Time to Rest

I worry that people are so tired of fighting (especially those who otherwise would be enjoying unfettered white & male privilege) that they will become complacent and allow gains we've made to be reversed. We can't take anything for granted. We must always work for fairness for all, and even if we were to get everything we deserve, we must remain vigilant for those who remain marginalized. Marriage equality isn't the end (as we see in AR where pre-marriage equality protections were just snatched away and in TX where the A/G is doing everything possible to protect majority prejudice over equal rights); justice work must be our life's work!

Monday, February 09, 2015

Church Without Religion Please

Religion (centralized denominational systems of power and privilege and hierarchy and cronyism) is too easy exploited (and exploitative) and often winds up being just another political system with "God" being the excuse for and the weapon used to control, exclude, and punish people. But Church/Temple/Synagogue/Sangha/Coven...the LOCAL spiritual community choosing to be together, work together, pray together, play together, learn together, and make a difference...that still has meaning for me.
I like what Mark Morford recently said (MM is hardly a religion company man!), "Humanity’s intrinsic existential curiosity, that deep spiritual longing innate to every soul on the planet, is essential and beneficial, and can lead to tremendous beauty, compassion, self-exploration."

I deeply believe in spiritual community, which is freeing and empowering. But the institutions of religion hold less appeal for me than ever. We need credentialing bodies and resource clearing houses, but when "Religion" wants to offer/control more than that, it actually gets in the way of spirituality...especially when it finds itself at odds with spirituality for its own survival.  I LOVE the church (coven, meditation center, etc.), I just happen to believe that the church is a relational, local experience. If "Religion" would try to exist to support the local church, then religion could be useful. Otherwise, not so much. The end.