Something to Sing About

On June 18, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Something to Sing About Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins 2nd Sunday After Pentecost 2017 A movie that had a huge impact on my life is the 1933 Mae West film, “I’m No Angel.” It’s about a carnival performer…a woman from the wrong side of the tracks. She’s popular with men, but her career places her only […]

Something to Sing About
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
2nd Sunday After Pentecost 2017

A movie that had a huge impact on my life is the 1933 Mae West film, “I’m No Angel.” It’s about a carnival performer…a woman from the wrong side of the tracks. She’s popular with men, but her career places her only slightly above outcast. One of her good friends is a pickpocket. But she’s got a good heart. She’s generous. When she makes it big as a lion tamer she hires 4 housekeepers…that must have been an incredible thing to imagine during the Depression. And she treats her housekeepers as confidantes…they aren’t just people doing chores, they are friends. And at one point in the movie, she breaks out into song with her housekeeper friends:

“I’ve always loved to be in bright lights
My streets are paved gold
But now i have a new kind of man, he’s one to have and hold. I’m in my glory when he’s around, showed me a new way to go town. I’m high; I’m low. I take a good man to make me, no man can shake me until i let him go…”

Wrong side of the tracks. Not the most respected career. But she is generous and hardworking and has love to give. She has joy in her heart so much so that she’ll just break out into song.

She falls in love with a guy who dumps her b/c he’s been led to believe that she’s cheating on him. They were engaged and he breaks off the engagement so she sues for breach of contract, and wins. When he comes to her luxury apartment to give her the settlement she’s won, she tears the check up in front of him. She’s a person of integrity. He sees now that he’s made a mistake and they reconcile and presumably live happily ever after.

As the credits roll, we hear Mae West singing:

“Aw, come on, let me cling on to ya like a vine
Make that lowdown music trickle off your spine
Baby, I can warm ya with this love of mine
I’m no angel…”

No angel, but a good person. Judged by others, but she is industrious, kind, generous, loving, fair. Not an angel according to the wrist slippers and name callers and finger pointers of the world, but a really good person.

The first time I saw that movie I was 6 years old. I’ve seen it 20 times so far. It’s part of my personal canon of sacred texts. It shows that one’s sacred value is not always recognized by those with power or privilege or authority or influence, but we can recognize our own sacred value, affirm it, celebrate it, and that is something to sing about.

Little Baby Queer Durrell intuited that message early. Mae West was singing to me. Mae West was talking to me. She was telling me that not everyone would recognize my innate goodness, but that was their issue, not mine. And deep in my spirit, in her human words, God’s voice was heard.

At some point, I made a conscious decision that I would do whatever I could to make sure people would hear in the sacred assembly, in the house of worship, that they were God’s miracle and not God’s mistake. I didn’t hear that in church…I heard that from pre-Hayes code Depression era movies, from musical theatre, from songs and poems and books. I heard it from Bugs Bunny in drag, and Charles Nelson Reilly flaming up the Match Game, and Mae West dancing and singing and cooing on screen insisting that she was something special, and if no one else knew it, she was going to know it. That’s the gospel…you are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake, and that’s something to sing about. That’s what I so want people to hear all their lives.

The Psalmist, even without the brilliance of Mae West, got the message. And so we hear from Psalm 100 and Psalm 116 today:

“Sing to the LORD, all the world! (Creation itself with all its diversity)
Worship the LORD with joy; come before [God] with happy songs!
…[God] made us (to be who we are), and we belong to [God]; we are [God’s] people, we are [god’s] flock.
Enter the (the house of worship) with thanksgiving; go into its (sanctuary) with praise. Give thanks…and praise [to God].
The LORD is good; [God’s] love is eternal and [God’s] faithfulness lasts forever.
I love the LORD [who always] hears me; [God] listens to my prayers.
[God] listens to me every time I call…”

Elaine Stritch sang in her last Broadway show: “I need a long time daddy, whose ready every time that i call.”

I’m not sure I should much more of it in mixed company, but we need a long time deity who answers every time that we call…and we have one. A loving presence who hears the cries of our hearts and who responds with gentle kindness every single time.

The psalmist goes on to say that he will show gratitude by worshiping, by participating in the sacred assembly, and being generous with offerings…but that is in response to the feeling of God’s goodness, a love that is omnipresent, everlasting, and all-inclusive. To know ourselves forever loved is to be grateful and joyful, and that requires a response…not bargaining for the afterlife, but showing gratitude for unfathomable goodness!

When we let ourselves experience God as the psalmist did, as an unconditional, all-inclusive, everlasting Love that will never and can never let us go…we will look for ways to show gratitude. We’ll be in church every time we can, we’ll be generous, compassionate, we’ll work for peace and justice and we’ll be concerned for the welfare of others…We won’t have to be threatened to worship…in fact, when we experience God as infinite goodness, there’s no threat that can keep us from worshiping. And that’s something to sing about.

Sing to the Lord. Come before God with happy songs. The Lord is good. We belong to God. We are God’s people. We are God’s flock.
So, let’s sing an old childhood song…it’s simple, but according to the Psalmist, it’s true.

You know the words:
“God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, God’s so good to me.
God answers prayer, God answers prayer, God answers prayer, God’s so good to me.”

And this is the good news. Amen.

(C) Durrell Watkins 2017

I trust in God’s goodness.
God will never let me go.
And so it is that my heart sings.


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