Love Lives Forever

On April 22, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Love Lives Forever Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Easter 2019 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, ay only God’s word be heard. Amen. The tomb was empty…the first resurrection experience was emptiness. No body. No explanation. No […]

Love Lives Forever
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Easter 2019

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, ay only God’s word be heard. Amen.

The tomb was empty…the first resurrection experience was emptiness. No body. No explanation. No proof. No argument. Just emptiness. Unanswered questions. And an angelic urgency to return to living fully.

Jesus was a friend to the friendless, a healer, a teacher, a conduit through which love flowed (human love and divine love, if there is a difference).
Jesus told people they were lovable.
He loved the unloved, touched the untouchable, affirmed those who had been pushed to the margins.
He loved people into wholeness.
He helped them love themselves, and he encouraged them to share the healing power of love with the world.

When hate and fear came for Jesus, tried to bring him down, vilified him and condemned and killed him, his friends and admirers were devastated.
Some wanted him to be their conquering hero.
But it was he who was vanquished. Betrayed. Arrested. Tried. Convicted of sedition. Finally executed.

But all that love that Jesus preached, demonstrated, shared…that love lives forever. People soon discovered that even after he was killed, they could still love Jesus, and continue to love in his name. They may be feeling some emptiness right now, but love fills the empty spaces, and brings hope and healing. Love lives forever.

Now, some women (Mary, Mary, and Mary) go to visit the body. The first people to experience the hope and the recharge that we call Resurrection were a bunch of Marys…aintathat good news?

The body is gone. Nothing has worked out as expected.
But he’s still with us, somehow. He still wants us to heal the hurting and offer hope to the hopeless and encourage the lonely and speak truth to power and resist injustice.
That’s what got him killed, but love gives even when there is risk involved. And we if are to love, we will have to take some risks. And somehow, the Marys, and the disciples, and you and I feel the strength of his love urging us to love in ways that threaten domination systems with the possibility of radical healing, restorative justice, and divine peace.

Even with all that’s gone wrong, we know that he wants us to go on to Galilee, to keep moving forward; he wants us to be, as he was, divine love in action. Because, as it turns out, love lives forever.

Go to Galilee the Marys are told. Get back into life.
Easter raises them from their funk so that they can share the message that God is all-inclusive, unconditional, everlasting love.

And you get that angels give the women a message to share …women are called to proclaim good news. Luckily the angel didn’t stop to ask if the institution ordained women. The angel just said, ladies, I need you to share your story.

Love wouldn’t leave women out. Love wouldn’t leave same-gender loving people out. Love wouldn’t leave gender non-conforming people out. Love wouldn’t leave people from various traditions and cultures out. Love includes all and Love lives forever.

When I was in seminary, my grandmother died. I was very close to my grandmother. Many nights during that year of grieving, I would go to a small chapel at the seminary. It was an empty, tomblike space. I could cry there. Feel all my feelings, no matter how messy they got. I could speak to my grandmother. Her body died, my love for her didn’t, nor did hers for me. I would ask God to heal my heart, but not too quickly. The loss was too deep…I couldn’t imagine the pain leaving all at once…it had to heal by degrees. I just wanted a presence to be with me in the pain, and to help me move through it in the way that I could.

Thank God for that empty chapel, and those empty hours. How healing they were. They led to new life. Nothing would ever be the same, but so much would still be very good. The progression was Heartache. Emptiness. Resurrection. New life. Alleluia.

In that chapel I experienced resurrection. Priest and poet John Bannister Tabb wrote:
“Out of the dusk a shadow, then a spark.
Out of the cloud a silence, then a lark.
Out of the heart a rapture, then a pain.
Out of the dead, cold ashes, life again.”

Easter for me isn’t about proving something happened once upon a time. Easter, for me is a reminder that love will not let us go, and because of that, new life is always possible. We will experience emptiness, but even in the emptiness there is a sustaining presence and it will lead us to new life.

The past is past and the future has infinite possibilities…that’s Resurrection.

Anyone who has found sobriety,

Anyone who has moved through grief,

anyone who has survived abuse and thrived in spite of it,

anyone who has been demonized or dehumanized because of where they are from or who they love or how they pray or how they identify in their bodies – but who insist on affirming their own sacred value,

anyone who has fallen but somehow has managed to get back up knows that weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning. That’s resurrection power. And it can lift you up today.

Have you ever faced difficulty, and afterward, felt an emptiness? There are angels today encouraging you to embrace life fully, to keep loving, to keep sharing…you’ll encounter something divine along the way. Head toward Galilee…there is a miracle or two for you just ahead.

The emptiness of the tomb, the emptiness of any experience isn’t the end of the story, it’s the first hint of resurrection. There’s more to come. Don’t give up yet because Love lives forever; that’s the message of Easter and this is the good news. Amen.

Love lives forever.
Love embraces me forever.
Love renews me today.

Three Steps to a Miracle

On April 16, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Three Steps to a Miracle Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Matthew 28 (Easter 2017) Resurrection is a recurring theme in the bible. Throughout scripture, we see people who are dead, who feel dead, or who are thought to be dead experience life again, or their loved ones experience them beyond their death. Elijah is said to […]

Three Steps to a Miracle
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Matthew 28 (Easter 2017)

Resurrection is a recurring theme in the bible. Throughout scripture, we see people who are dead, who feel dead, or who are thought to be dead experience life again, or their loved ones experience them beyond their death.

Elijah is said to raise a widow’s dead son back to life, and Elijah’s disciple, Elisha, later does the same thing. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus raises widow’s dead back to life.

A dead body is tossed into Elisha’s tomb and when the body touches Elisha’s bones, it comes back to life.
Ezekiel sees his whole community as being lifeless, but he has a vision of it being renewed, brought back to thriving life.

Jesus raises Jairus’ dead daughter back to life, and in another story, he raises Lazarus as well.

Eutychus in the book of Acts falls out a window and breaks his neck, but is resurrected.

In Matthew 27 a whole bunch of people are resurrected and just start walking around.

And, most famously, Jesus is resurrected in all four gospels. We tend to focus on the stories of Jesus’ resurrection, but it happened several times before Jesus in our sacred stories, and a few times after. The concept of resurrection isn’t unique to Jesus, but it does seem to be a key element in the faith tradition that Jesus both inherited and shared.

Resurrection is the greatest miracle in our scriptures and in our lives; but before I say more about that I want to define what I mean by resurrection and what I mean by miracle.

1. A Miracle is a change of perception, particularly a change that moves us away from fear. Every time we embrace hope, every time we summon courage, every time we experience gratitude, every time we are able to forgive, every time we share love…our lives are altered for the better. The change of perception that moves us away from fear is a miracle.

2. Resurrection is the experience of transformation that reminds us that life can be renewed, dignity can be restored, joy can be experienced in new and life-giving ways.

Whenever we see miracles in scripture, and for that matter, whenever we see the supreme miracle of resurrection, we see fear being dispelled and renewal being experienced. No wonder these symbols were so important to our ancestors and remain important to us.

Now, if miracles represent liberation from fear, and resurrection symbolizes renewal in our own lives, what can we do to experience miracles for ourselves, maybe even the miracle of resurrection? Today’s gospel reading from Matthew gives us a three step pattern that we can follow, or we could say, three steps to a miracle.

A couple of Marys (you know the type) are the ones in this story to experience the miracle of Resurrection. They discover that Jesus isn’t really dead…but, we might have guessed that.
We know that life is energy and energy can’t be destroyed, it only changes form. We know that our loved ones live on in echoes of their actions and in the loving memories we hold of them.
We trust that we all live forever in the heart of God.

So, Jesus not being dead isn’t a real shocker…the surprise is how people experienced him (and experience him still) beyond his death. It is one thing to know life is continuous; it is another to be blessed by a life that seems to have been taken from us.
Mary and Mary, somehow, experience the living Christ, that was their miracle of overcoming fear…in fact, the angel and Jesus both tell them to not be afraid…to not give in to fear during a terrifying time is a great miracle indeed! And how did they get to this resurrection miracle?

1. They looked for it. Other gospel stories show women going to the tomb to embalm a body, but Matthew’s Marys have no spices, no linens, no incense. They’re not there to embalm. They just go to the tomb, looking, but for what? Maybe they don’t even know, but they do know that the tragedies they’ve witnessed and endured cannot be the end of the story. They know they have reason to keep looking.

When we pray, when we ask questions, when we peruse the scriptures, we are looking for an experience of the Sacred. We may not know what it will look like, but we know it’s worth looking for and like Matthew’s Marys, we search. Jesus said, “seek and you will find.”
Like the Marys, if we will seek out an experience of the Sacred, we are very likely to find it.

2. It’s one thing to look for something, but we might not make much headway if we don’t listen while we look. Others have probably been looking too, and they may have discovered some things along the way. On our search there are divine messages offered to us, but we won’t benefit from them if we don’t receive them. The angel tells the Marys to not give in to their fears. The angel tells them to talk to the other disciples, share their experience. The angel tells them to keep moving forward – don’t give up the search for the Sacred. Luckily, they took the wise counsel and benefited from it.

As they followed the counsel to go share their story with other seekers, (which is what the church is…a community of seekers sharing our hopes, our weaknesses, our discoveries, and our resources so that together we can be more than we would be alone), as they continued to follow the advice of the angel…they experienced the Resurrected Christ, the symbol of renewed life. The faithful search for the sacred will give us at least moments of profound renewal. They followed the advice they were willing to hear.

3. Mary and Mary looked and listened, which means they learned and then they put their learning into action. They labored. The story says they RAN…that’s exertion, that’s purpose, that’s determination, that’s focus, that’s energy…they ran to share the hope they had discovered and the joy they had experienced. They labored to make sure others could have miracles, particularly the miracle of resurrection. It wasn’t just about them…they needed to share.

Mary and Mary never say a word in this story. They don’t have to. St. Francis of Assisi supposedly said, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”

And today, we see the Marys, looking for miracles, listening to wisdom, laboring to share hope and joy, we see them looking, listening, learning, loving, laboring…but they never say a word. God talk is fine; God action is better.

Do you need to overcome some fear in your life, that is, do you need a miracle?
Would you like to experience dramatic renewal, a resurrection in your life?

Try the Marys’ 3 point plan. Look for miracles, listen for guidance, and lovingly labor to achieve and share your miracle. And like the Marys, that can best be done in blessed community.

As the community of Christ, let us look, listen, and lovingly labor for miracles…I believe they are at hand. And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2017

I give thanks for Resurrection Power.
By it I am continually renewed.

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