Turn It Around

On December 10, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Turn It Around Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Advent 2, 2017 (Peace) Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken may only God’s word be heard. Amen. Coming out (in the 1980s) was a big change for me. It […]

Turn It Around
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Advent 2, 2017 (Peace)

Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

Coming out (in the 1980s) was a big change for me. It didn’t change who I was, but it changed how I felt about myself, and changing how I felt about myself changed how I experienced life. Because of what I had been taught by well meaning but woefully misinformed people, I grew up believing that same-gender love and attraction were bad…and yet, I knew at the age of 4 who I was. But I was told that was wrong. So, I spent years trying to confess away, pray away, and in high school, even date away the gay. It didn’t work.

But what did work was my changing the narrative. I learned what social and behaviorial science had to say about same gender affection and attraction. I met LGBTQ people and saw first hand how generous and courageous and amazingly fabulous they were. I learned that theologians and bible scholars were way ahead of most pulpit preachers on this issue. I learned that there was even an entire academic field known as Queer Theology! But more importantly, I asked God to fix me, to heal me, take the gay away, and God’s response in the depths of my spirit was crystal clear: Not even God can heal what is not sick.

That was a new and lifesaving narrative for me. It turned my whole life around. And for 30 years now I have been thanking God for what and who I am.

We all have had a moment when we felt stuck because of fear or regret or self-doubt or shame…and I’m here to tell you that you can change your self talk and turn away from the stuck feeling and turn toward hope, peace, and joy.

I used to think God was scary and out to get us. I turned that nonsense around. I now know that God is love…
not God is love BUT…
God is love PERIOD.

I’ve still got some stuff to turn around. If I’m not careful, I’ll scare myself by focusing too much on what is wrong in the world and on what could get worse. Sometimes I think Compassion has come become a D list value, and empathy seems almost like an ancient myth. And if I focus on that without giving myself a counter narrative, I can get anxious and depressed. But if i want to be resilient in these uncertain times, and that means I’m going to have turn some things around in my thinking.

I’m going to have to believe that the human family is still evolving, and while we may now and again take a few steps back, we will get moving forward again.

I’m going to have to tell myself that while a lot of people are hurting right now, healing is possible.

I’m going to have to tell myself that when a deluge of woes is flooding our world, when anxieties seem to be diluvial, then I need to build an ark of peace that will shelter at least some from the storm.
To turn around our attitudes is to lay claim on inner peace.

There is a story in the bible about Jesus and his disciples being on a boat. Jesus takes a nap, but while he’s sleeping a storm pops up. The disciples become huge drama queens. They wake up Jesus saying, “Teacher, how can you sleep? Don’t you care that we’re going to die out here?” Jesus gave a stretch and a yawn, and then said, “Peace. Be still.” In the story, he was quieting the storm, but I think really he was quieting his panicking friends. They were scaring themselves and weren’t able to find peace in terror, but Jesus had peace, he had cultivated peace through prayer and worship and study and meditation…and so when the crisis came, he had peace to share. He could offer peace because he had trained himself to go to peace instead of to pieces.

In today’s gospel reading, John is preaching a baptism of repentance. Repentance is turning around, turning from one thing and toward another. Repentance is a religious word for turning one’s attitude and habits around.

And the passage ends with some very good news. John says, “I have baptized you with water, but someone is coming who will baptize you with the holy Spirit.”

In other words, John is saying, “I’ve been telling you to turn things around in your life, in your mind. But there is one who will immerse you in power, in wholeness, in an awareness of God’s presence. I’ve been telling you to turn it around, but he’s going to show you that you actually have the power to do it.“ We are immersed in the power to change our thinking, and thereby change how we experience the world. It is realizing that we are immersed in spirit, in the omnipresence of God, that gives us peace and empowerment and indomitable hope.

Once we realize that we have the power to turn our thinking around, then we go to peace instead of to pieces, and that may be the miracle most needed in the world today…people who have peace that the world cannot give and that the world cannot take away. Peace is possible. And this is the good news. Amen.

Dear God,
Replace my fear with faith,
My weariness with resilience,
And my pain with peace.
And what I wish for myself, I wish for all people.

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