New Life

On January 28, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

New Life Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Jan 28, 2018 Jn 3.1-8, 19-21 Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. At 19 I begged and beseeched God to strike me straight. I […]

New Life
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Jan 28, 2018
Jn 3.1-8, 19-21

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

At 19 I begged and beseeched God to strike me straight. I was told that same-gender love and attraction were sinful.

I didn’t know that the American Psychiatric Association had maintained since 1973 that same-gender love and attraction was not disordered, not pathological, nor did I know that contemporary biblical and theological scholarship was debunking religiously motivated prejudices against LGBTQ people. I just knew that most of the people that I knew would have thought something was wrong with me if they knew who I really was.

So I prayed for God to heal me of my sinful nature. God, however, did not strike me straight. Instead, I heard a message deep within me…not an audible voice but a clear message nevertheless, and the message was simply and powerfully: Not even God can heal what is not sick.

I was renewed, reborn, revived, relieved…I didn’t become someone else (I was who I was meant to be!), but I embraced a new understanding of who I am. I was reborn as someone who trusted my sacred value and who could learn to trust that God is love. I was reborn as someone who knew that I was God’s miracle and not God’s mistake, I was part of a divine plan that was diverse and beautiful and wonderful. I came to understand that just as I am, I am (as the psalmist affirmed) awesomely and wonderfully made.

Let’s think back to the creation myth in Genesis chapter 1:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

In the beginning, God. Let’s for a moment pretend that time is linear and that there was a literal beginning. If God is all there is (in the beginning), then with what and from what does God create? God’s Self! What else is there “in the beginning?” God is the maker and the plan and the stuff from which creation is made. The maker, the plan, and the stuff…how’s that for a trinity?!

So everything that is, is God’s creation, an extension of God. Everything that lives is animated with God’s life (breath, energy, spirit). Every creature is part of God’s heart. We are each God’s child.

There’s not a spot where God is not because there’s nothing that doesn’t come from God, that isn’t made from God-stuff. And so it is that it is in God that we live and move and have our being.

So in the beginning, God is all…and God is the same yesterday, today, and forever…so God is still all…omnipresent, everywhere fully present, which means all that is, is in and part of God. We can’t be lost from an omnipresent God; we can’t be rejected by a God that is Love.

To be reborn is to wake up to the truth of our union with God. To be reborn, or born from above, or born of spirit is to realize who we really are…God’s begotten.

The reading this morning skipped a couple of verses that have been used problematically, but in the context of the larger passage they are very reassuring. Verses 16 and 17, well known by those who memorize bible verses, say in the King James rendering, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”

Forgive the patriarchal language, but that is how many of us learned it.

That passage falls in the middle of this larger text about following the light and being born of spirit. It’s all metaphorical and philosophical and symbolic and maybe confusing. It’s little wonder that people have misunderstood it. The verse is used to suggest that those of us who hold certain opinions or understandings are heaven bound, and everyone else is in deep, everlasting doo-doo. But how could that ever be good news…that would be just one more unjust system of ins and outs, haves and have nots, accepted and rejected. That can’t be God. Religion has to be better than mere fire insurance!

What most of us were never told is that the word translated as “world” in that passage is actually kosmos. It means the entire world, the earth and beyond, all who exist anywhere in any form. For God so loved the cosmos! That God gave God’s best, God’s heart, God’s all. God so loved everything that God gave everything.

The only begotten child isn’t just one person in history, it’s every person. God gives life so that everyone who chooses to believe in life will experience it fully, abundantly, and eternally.

There’s another word to consider: Believe. Whoever believes…

Again, that has been used as if belief is currency – whoever spends the coin of belief will have purchased a membership in the heavenly country club.

But spiritual belief isn’t an opinion, it’s a commitment. To say “I believe” is to say, “I set my heart on…” To search for meaning, significance, truth, to seek to be in communion with the divine, to wish to be used by God to bless others…this is setting our hearts on a path, and that path leads where it must, to the very heart of God. Or to an awareness of God’s heart in which we have always been at home.

So hear John 3.16-17 again, in a new way:
“For God so loved everything, that God gave everything, all that God is, that whoever set their heart on God or the search for meaning by any name, would discover that they were forever safe in the love that God is. For God didn’t give all that God is to condemn the cosmos; God gave God’s best and God’s all so that the cosmos would find itself forever safe in God.”

God created from God’s own Self, and so all that is created is the child of God, and the child of God is on a spiritual journey that leads to a renewed awareness that God is the All-in-all and we can never be separated from God.

God so loved the cosmos.
Muslims are part of the cosmos.
Jewish people are part of the cosmos.
Atheists are part of the cosmos.
Hindus are part of the cosmos.
Women who march are part of the cosmos.
People struggling to regain their health are part of the cosmos.
Refugees are part of the cosmos.
People who need a helping hand are part of the cosmos.
Transgender youth are part of the cosmos.
Same-gender loving people are part of the cosmos.
People in recovery are part of the cosmos.
People who live with the constant threat of war are part of the cosmos.
And these people need to hear that God LOVES the entire cosmos!

We are made of God-stuff. God gave everything, God’s best, God’s Self, to create us and God’s love and light are part of us. We will never be separated from God’s grace and love. To embrace that is like a new lease on life, a new birth. And it is the gift we are offered today. This is the good news. Amen.

Dear God,
I set my heart on you.
I know that I am forever in your heart.
You are the Maker, the Plan, and the Stuff of my life.
And amen.

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