Sermon from November 25, 2018

They Will Not Hurt or Destroy on All My Holy Mountain
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
United Church of Strafford, Vermont
November 25, 2018 Twenty-seventh and Last Sunday after Pentecost,
Reign of Christ Sunday
Isaiah 11; Matthew 25:31-40

It is June of 2019 and a miracle is happening.
The reign of Christ is dawning on earth
before our amazed and joyous eyes.
It is not the rapture evangelicals expect,
it is not Christ riding in on clouds with an army,
in fact it is not happening in the name of Christ,
it is happening in the name of love, and compassion,
and common sense. It is a great waking from sleep
happening all over the world, a new enlightenment.

A sea change has been taking place
over the first half of 2019, only now we can see
that the change has been approaching
for decades, for millennia,
like the subtle turning of a tide
where only after a while do we notice
that the waves are coming farther up the shore.

Over 2500 years ago the Prophet Isaiah foresaw
that the earth and all its creatures
could be restored to harmony
if humans would change their ways
to live by the laws of God’s love,
caring for the weakest and most vulnerable,
establishing an equitable justice for the poor.
Humans could bring shalom to the entire sacred earth.
They would not hurt or destroy
on all God’s holy mountain.

Then 2000 years ago Jesus taught us
to strive first for the realm of God
and its right ways of living and all else
would fall into place. Jesus showed
that the right ways of living were
to lay down our lives out of love,
to lose our selfish life to gain the Spirit’s life,
to feed the hungry and welcome the stranger
and care for the sick and the oppressed.
He said, ‘Truly I tell you,
just as you do it to one of the least of these
who are members of my family, you do it to me.’
The whole human family is sacred, Jesus taught,
the whole earth is sacred. To fail to live that way
is to sentence the human race and all the earth
to destruction, but to live as if all earth and life are sacred
brings grace and peace
and the sustainable realm of God on earth.

Over the millennia since Jesus, countless saints
have seen this wisdom and lived by it
and enlarged upon it, St. Francis of Assisi,
the 18th Century Quaker John Woolman,
Gandhi and Mother Theresa in India,
Martin Luther King Jr. and Dorothy Day in America.
The sea change has been slowly building,
but in recent years it has accelerated
as the crisis of humanity and the earth deepened.

In the mid-20th Century the Jesuit scientist and mystic,
Teilhard de Chardin, said, “The day will come when,
after harnessing space, winds, the tide and gravitation,
we shall harness for God the energies of love.
And, on that day, for the second time
in the history of the world,
[humanity] will have discovered fire.”
In the year 2018 the Episcopal Archbishop,
the Rev. Michael Curry, quoted Teilhard
at the royal wedding, and then Bishop Curry continued,

“Someone once said that Jesus began the most
revolutionary movement in human history.
A movement grounded in the unconditional
love of God for the world—and a movement
mandating people to live that love,
and in so doing to change not only their lives
but the very life of the world itself.
I’m talking about power. Real power.
Power to change the world….
Imagine governments and nations where love is the way.
Imagine business and commerce where this love
is the way. When love is the way, then no child
will go to bed hungry in this world ever again.”

In the late 20th Century the Faithkeeper and Chief
from the Iroquois Confederacy, Oren Lyons,
spoke before the United Nations saying,
“It seems to me that we are living in a time of prophecy,
a time of definitions and decisions.
We are the generation with the responsibilities
and the option to choose the The Path of Life
for the future of our children….
We can still alter our course. It is not too late.
We still have options. We need the courage
to change our values…. We must join hands
with the rest of Creation and speak of Common Sense,
Responsibility, [Oneness] and Peace.”

And in the early 21st Century Nelson Mandela said,
“Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great.
You can be that great generation.
Let your greatness blossom. Of course,
the task will not be easy.
But not to do this would be a crime against humanity,
against which I ask all humanity now to rise up.”
Late in 2018 climate change activist and author
Bill McKibben wrote,
“We are on a path to self-destruction,
and yet there is nothing inevitable about our fate….
We could move quickly if we chose to,
but we’d need to opt for solidarity and coördination
on a global scale…. The possibility of swift change
lies in people coming together in movements
large enough to shift the zeitgeist.”

McKibben was responding to the news
that we have only twelve years
to prevent the worst effects of climate change
and we are seeing their beginnings
now.
It was that little word that made the difference:
now…now as wildfires consume as never before,
now as hurricanes flood and flatten homes as never before,
now as the fossil fuel industry
and their politicians dig in more fiercely
to “drill, baby, drill” and “burn, baby, burn”
and grab all the profits they can before the end,
now as more refugees than ever in history
desperately search the planet for a safe haven,
now, as nations send soldiers to block their borders
from people seeking humanitarian refuge,
now, as racism and fascism and totalitarian governments
rise from the ground of fear,
now…

That is what sped the tide for this sea change,
that is what brought the dawning
of the reign of Christ, because it turned out that
the majority of the people on earth had hearts
that still longed for the peaceable kingdom of Isaiah,
that still responded to Christ’s message of love,
that still knew the wisdom of the Golden Rule,
hearts that loved their children and
loved the beauty of the earth.

Confronted with the urgency of now,
people overcame their fear and despair
and began talking together about the likelihood
that the human race could become extinct,
like the thousands of other species
becoming extinct every year now.
The courage to face that truth freed people
to feel deeply and grieve everything that would be lost
and all the suffering between here and the end.
Then the common sense of ordinary people
all over the world awoke and said, quietly
but firmly, no. This is not acceptable.
This is not the only path humans can take.
We have another way, a sacred way,
we have the teachings of all our religions
and the wisest, kindest people in all times and places,
and these teachings are the same all over the world,
telling us that the earth is sacred
and all life is sacred and the meaning
and purpose of our lives is to be stewards
of the manifold goodness of the creation.
All the spiritual traditions show another way,
the way of sustainability and health and wellbeing
for countless generations to come.

Here is what it looked like as the reign of Christ
began to dawn. The leaders of a little village church
gathered after worship one Sunday
and looked at one another and acknowledged
that they were being called to rise up like no generation
ever before. They saw they needed to unite as one
and pool their gifts and talents and resources,
laying down their lives
to bring the reign of Christ on earth now,
to create the realm of God on earth now,
to change the path and policies of the world’s
governments and corporations and institutions
and homes and individual ways of living
now. They saw they needed to insist
that every policy covering every issue
be guided by the principles and politics of love,
from now on. And they asked themselves,
how can we be a force, not merely a presence,
effecting positive social change
for peace, justice and the care of God’s creation?
How can we address big questions
and controversial issues openly and humbly,
respectful of varied views and feelings
in order to take stands as Christ did on the side of love?

At the same time that the little village church
was meeting, unbeknownst to it, other churches
and synagogues and mosques and sanghas
and indigenous communities were also meeting,
and NGOs and Lions Clubs and Masons and Rotaries,
all were asking themselves similar questions,
how can we steer the world onto a path of love now,
and save this sacred earth and the life
of our children and all goodness, right now?

In the early months of 2019 churches and organizations
from around the world formed a global alliance
to work together and coordinate the efforts
of tens of thousands of disconnected groups
because they saw the need to act as one earth.
Like Gandhi, the alliance had two programs.
It worked on the one hand to stop the old ways,
to oppose greed, to change the economic structures
and regulations that allowed environmental destruction
and economic inequity and the erosion of human
dignity and freedom and rights,
and there were massive nonviolent actions to do this.
The alliance worked on the other hand to promote new ways,
the restructuring of the energy industry,
the growth of restorative justice,
and truth and reconciliation commissions,
the building of local resilience and sustainability
of food, shelter and basic human needs,
the healing of abused people
and the wounded earth and its creatures.
The alliance shared information between people
all over the world who were demonstrating
in the most practical ways that humans
really could live by the principles of their religions,
that humanity could be reborn as
a force of love and life and light in the image
of the creator of the universe,
in the image of the heart of Christ.

The reign of Christ at its dawning looked surprisingly
like village children reenacting the ancient pageant:
people seeking the light that shines in the darkness
that the darkness can never overcome,
looking to the stars, listening to the angels.
The reign of Christ on earth came
like a humble teenage girl giving birth to a baby
in stables in little villages everywhere:
a humble child who became the light of the world
that saved the earth and all living beings.
The dawn of the reign of Christ looked like people
holding up candles and singing Silent Night
on Christmas Eve, with every heart
making a commitment that its candle
would not get snuffed out until together
they had brought the light of love and kindness
to every aspect of human existence.

The reign of Christ dawned in the year 2019
because we made up our minds at last that it must.
The ancient vision was fulfilled because we,
as the body of Christ on earth, gave our lives to its cause,
and that was the beginning
of the best story of beauty and goodness
that humans had ever dared to dream,
for from that time on, they did not hurt
or destroy on all God’s holy mountain.
Let us pray in silence…

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