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The Call to Worship
Gather us in, O God, we who are a grand spectrum of your children.
All: Prisms that catch your light with furtive wanting and give it back in a variety of blended hues.
Gather us in, O God, as dancing colors of a rainbow in the sky.
All: For our very being is the fulfillment of your promise.
(Foundry UMC, Washington, Shaping Sanctuary 97)
Rainbow Christ, you embody all the colors of the world. Rainbows serve as bridges between different realms: Heaven and Earth, east and west, queer and non-queer. Inspire us to remember the values expressed in the rainbow flag of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community.
Rainbow colors come together to make one light, the crown of universal consciousness. Hybrid and All-Encompassing Christ, you are our Crown, both human and divine. Free us from rigid categories, and grant us the grace of interwoven identities. With the rainbow, lead us beyond black-and-white thinking to experience the whole spectrum of life.
Rainbow Christ, you light up the world. You make rainbows as a promise to support all life on Earth. In the rainbow space we can see all the hidden connections between sexualities, genders, and races. Like the rainbow, may we embody all the colors of the world! Amen.
(excerpted from a prayer by Kittredge Cherry http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kittredge-cherry/rainbow-christ-prayer-hon_b_1616193.html )
The wisdom of Deepak Chopra
Enlightened leadership is spiritual if we understand spirituality not as some kind of religious dogma or ideology but as the domain of awareness where we experience values like truth, goodness, beauty, love and compassion, and also intuition, creativity, insight and focused attention
The Wisdom of Desmond Tutu
God’s dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion.
Mark 3.22-26, 28-30
22The scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “This Jesus has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23And Jesus answered them, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 28Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their misdeeds and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the holy Spirit can never have forgiveness…”— 30for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
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“The Dream of God”
Our readings today appear to me to be examples of what scholars and academics call “Practical Spirituality” in the field of Theological Studies. Deepak Chopra calls attention to the fact that spirituality is something that permeates all of our being. It is not reserved for just Sundays or whatever persona we project when we’re in church or at church activities.
I think it’s no accident that both Chopra and Tutu use the word compassion in discussing practical spirituality. Compassion is the fuel for creating, growing, and sustaining relationship with others. Even our closest family and friends may be dealing with hidden challenges that we can’t even imagine. And so erring on the side of compassion is what I’m trying to learn.
The Chopra reading also points to the fact that the expressions of spirituality, unlike expressions of religion, permeate all aspects of our lives. Keeping objects of my own religion on my desk at work or the wall of my office may be offensive or oppressive to those with other religious traditions. But the evidence of real spiritual maturity recognizes the overlapping and interwoven values that are common to all religions – values like “truth, goodness, beauty, love and compassion.” As I read him this excerpt from Chopra recognizes that real leadership honors intuition, creativity, and the ability to focus on our work in addition to traditional leadership skills that we generally recognize. I think it’s no accident that values like “truth, goodness, beauty, love and compassion” are more often considered feminine or female attributes in addition to intuition and creativity. In business we sometimes run into the idea that one has to be hard, loudly outspoken, one has to stand up and take up space without much thought to compassion. The only attribute in this short reading that is considered vital in our “traditional” view of business is “focused attention.” I think traditionally we concentrate on leadership skills as the ability to “get things done.” The way I read Chopra today is that we need to reevaluate the way we frame leadership and expand that frame to include other attributes like“truth, goodness, beauty, love and compassion, and also intuition, creativity, [and] insight.”
Our reading from Archbishop Desmond Tutu highlights our need to remember that we’re all in this together and none of us are going to get out of this life alive. We have more fundamental similarities than differences; that we humans are built for relationship, we need it, we thrive upon it. I believe the dream of God is that we recognize this fact and begin to concentrate our lives on relationship rather than “output.”
As we enter what is known as Pride Month in most places in the US we celebrate the fact that our diversity is our strength. I’m so mindful that we are experiencing a second kind of Stonewall in the media with our transgender brothers and sisters. Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono, and most recently Caitlyn Jenner have stepped out into the spotlight. If we are truly to be a human family it will take all our best efforts to continue to express love and compassion not only for these but for those who continue to live in ignorance and bigotry. I’m certainly not advocating for keeping quiet in the face of verbal attacks and hateful jokes but I am saying that even as I do my best to let people know that I support the gender and sexuality identities that others embrace I want to continue in my own heart to feel love and compassion for those among us who struggle with acceptance knowing that their real struggle is to accept themselves.
And our reading today from the gospel according to Mark is one of what I like to call Jesus’ “Logic Lessons.” When he is accused of casting out demons in the name of Satan he points out that evil cannot cast out evil. And uses the image of a kingdom divided to illustrate that when wholeness is interrupted, our essence is in peril.
This house divided thing combined with the breathtaking public transition of Caitlyn Jenner got me to thinking about how we as individuals tear down ourselves when we try to embrace one set of values in one part of our lives and a different set of values in another part…. Like trying to uphold one set of ethical standards in our personal life and act in ways that are contrary to that in our work life because, as “they” say…. Business is business.
Just because so much of the capitalistic world embraces the idea that low wages, no benefits, and outrageous salaries and benefits for those at the top as the norm does not make it right or just. When we follow our better selves we can’t discard it when we go to work and put it on again when we walk out the door. Practical spirituality requires us to examine all parts of our lives and hold our actions and inactions up against the values we say we follow in our religious practice. If the kingdom of God is really within us then our task in bringing the kingdom alive in the world, I think, is to be sure that we are not divided within ourselves on the issue of compassion. Compassion requires us to work for justice.
Our gospel reading today is a story about how a compassionate person is often treated in the world. It’s a story about how a ministry of presence can restore people to a realization that they are loved by the creator and therefore sacred in our own right without producing anything. Jesus shows us what compassion looks like. He touches the untouchables and listens to children. But his compassion is met with resistance because much of what he did challenged the prevailing religious rules of the day. Jesus turned the practice of religion upside down. He viewed religion as a vehicle to a practical spirituality that restores us to wholeness and is rooted in compassion.
But those who enjoyed power and privilege tried to characterize compassion as evil. My friend and colleague Rev Dr Durrell Watkins explained to me this week what I believe is the best explanation I’ve ever heard for the concept of blaspheming against the holy Spirit. [Jesus] healed on the Sabbath believing that the Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath. [He believed that] religious traditions … were meant to liberate us not control us. This challenged the power and privilege that some enjoyed.
“They called his compassion evil…Jesus tells them that blaspheming against the spirit of goodness is intolerable…[One] can’t appreciate what is good if you don’t know goodness when it [appears]. That’s why blaspheming against the very essence of goodness isn’t tolerable because that means that [a person] is not even open to experiencing goodness, not even open to benefiting from it if we are not able to see it.”
The dream of God is that we humans achieve an understanding that religion is our tool to work for compassion in everything we do. It is our means of learning a practical spirituality that leads us to ethical action in loving each other. My hope for us here at Sunshine Cathedral of Second Life is that we use our time together here each week to help us become more loving, more compassionate, and learn to respect our intuition and insight to make the world around us a more just place for everyone. The dream of God is that we aspire to and attain our truest selves and live into the love for which we were created.
As we enter this month of Pride celebrations this year may we all embrace the beautiful rainbow of diversity that we are and stand up for those who are marginalized by indifference and hate. Amen
Santi please come forward. We want to share a special blessing upon you as you leave us to go to your work in Africa.
Today we want to acknowledge God’s blessing on you and the work you are leaving to do. We want to give thanks to God for your presence here among us and for the example that you show us each and every week in your faithfulness to this congregation and in your willingness to not only speak for justice but to act for justice. We pray for safety for your body and fulfillment of your spirit as you go to your work in Africa. And we give thanks that you are willing to act for compassion, for love, and for justice. My your healing touch bring health and wholeness to everyone you meet. In the name of the healer Jesus we pray, Amen