Readings and Reflection from Sunshine Cathedral of Second Life on Sunday, August 27, 2017
Call to Worship
How shall we get along with one another in this world?
The Apostle Paul said that our love should be genuine. We should hate what is evil and hold fast to what is good.
We should honor one another with kindness and compassion.
We should always be strong in our enthusiasm to serve God.
Come, let us joyfully worship God in all that we do.
Let us praise God in our words, our thoughts, and our actions.
“There is a divine spark within each of us. It burned before we were born, and it continues to burn after our earthly passing. Some call it our soul, our spirit, our True Self, our essence, but it is that which connects us to God – and to each other. When the Bible records in Genesis that we are made in the image and likeness of God, it is because this spark within is from and of God, as if a candle lit from the flame of God.” Holy One blow the wind of your love upon the embers of the Divine Spark within each of us and give us courage to do your work of love and justice in the world today. Amen.
Exodus 1:8-11a (NRSV)
Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor.
Psalm 124.2-3, 8 (NRSV)
If the LORD had not been on our side, when enemies rose up against us, they would they have swallowed us up alive in their fierce anger toward us. Our help is in the Name of the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.
Matthew 16.13-20 (NRSV, adapted)
Jesus…asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Humanity is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptizer, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are Anointed, the one chosen by the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For your realization isn’t natural, but supernatural. And I tell you, you are a Rock, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Death will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the realm of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was God’s anointed.
Reflection by Rev. Dr. BK Hipsher, Virtual Chaplain, Sunshine Cathedral
A Dream of Justice
I had a dream this week that has stayed with me and grown more powerful as the week unfolded. It’s not a secret in my house that I would love to have a little dog. I’m a dog person. We have two wonderful cat children but I love dog energy. I like the wiggling, licking, whining love that a dog unfurls when I come back from a short trip to the grocery store. In my dream I was gifted a little tan colored terrier mix puppy. Lord it was an ugly little thing. Most notable was a huge black snout on the end of a long nose. I laughed and thought to myself that I hoped the little guy would grow into that huge nose.
Then I was told that I had been specially entrusted with this little being. And that this little puppy contained all the goodness of all the people and animals and plants and fish and birds and rocks in the entire world. All of it was deposited in this little silly looking puppy. And I was entrusted to care for it and nurture it. Some dream. And all week it’s stayed with me.
Through the ugly news of Trump’s latest meltdown on Tuesday, to the horrible images of the damage in Hong Kong and southern China from a typhoon, to the dire predictions of Hurricane Harvey’s fury and the biblical proportion flooding to follow; even to Friday night’s horror show of the pardon of a racist, law flaunting sheriff found in contempt of federal courts, to the cruel second-class treatment of transgender service people willing to give their lives to protect us all. Through all of it this ugly little dog kept popping into my mind with his wagging tail and big brown eyes full of love and hope.
When I read Exodus 1.8-11a I could not help but equate the king with our current administration and Joseph with all of the people the US government are now oppressing. Just as in our lesson, there are people in power in the United States who fear that various groups of people “not like them” will become so numerous that their hold on control will be challenged. Fear fuels anger, dread motivates hate, and power makes oppression possible. When hate and power are combined, the toxic brew of oppression is stirred in the cauldron of lies and evil deeds and then forced upon those who drink from the evil cup of propaganda and misinformation.
Just as our reading from Exodus washes over us so comes the hope for the future that those who love God have kept alive for millennia. The assurance that no matter what earthly power arises to spread evil, in the word of the Psalmist, ….”Our help is in the Name of the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.” These words echo through the ages to provide balm for our weary souls in the 21st century. The assurance of these words are just as important to us in a time when nuclear annihilation of the planet is equaled only by our destruction of the ecological balance of our beautiful earth. Hope wells up in us even when terrorists and racists cloud our minds with hopelessness and despair.
Our reading from Matthew 16.13-20 is the story of Jesus asking Peter, “Who do people say that the Son of Humanity is?” Peter answers that people have different ideas about where his teachings come from. “Some say John the Baptizer, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets,” is his answer. Then Jesus asks the important question that each of us as Christians must ultimately answer for ourselves, “But who do you say that I am?” I’ve struggled with this question as long as I can remember. It is only recently that I can say with certainty that I have my own answer.
Notice that in our passage, and indeed in much of the New Testament texts, Jesus is described as the Son of Humanity. Isn’t that interesting? The son of God and the son of humanity. How can that be? For me there is only one answer.
In every human child is implanted the divine spark of the creator of the universe. In each of us, is the love of God, the promise of tomorrow, the hope for the future.
Peter understood that Jesus was special only insofar as he tapped into that awareness and did his best to share it with everyone. Jesus never claimed to have “special powers.” But he did know that the spark of the divine that is implanted in every human is beyond the natural world, that it is “supernatural.”
It is not logical to understand ourselves as part of the whole of creation, yet we are. It is not logical to feel the connection to all of humanity, yet we are connected. It is not logical to think that we can be the conduit for miracles, but we can be the connection between the natural and the supernatural worlds. That is our calling.
Once again this week we confront our calling to minister to the wounded broken world. Once again this week we are called upon to be healers, to bind up the wounds of those who are beaten and bruised by the oppression of those with power and privilege. Once again this week we are confronted by our human brother Jesus who reminds us that whomever we think he is, so are we. He told his disciples many times that whatever he did they could do and even more.
We must confront our own divinity. We must accept our responsibility in our own time in history. What will we say when Jesus asks, “But who do you say that I am?” Amen.