Vision for a Golden Civilization, God’s Realm on Earth II
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
United Church of Strafford, Vermont
March 3, 2019
Eighth and Last Sunday after Epiphany, Transfiguration Sunday
Psalms & II Corinthian passages; Genesis Story of Joseph; Luke 9:23-36
Humanity desperately needs a vision of the Golden Civilization that it could become. It needs a glimpse of the realm of God on earth in order to have a sense of direction and the courage to make the arduous transformation to living by the Golden Rule and ethic of love.
The structure of the transfiguration story gives us reason to believe that the vision we need will arise. Jesus had just told the disciples that he would be arrested, tortured and executed on the cross, a revolutionary’s death he was earning by trying to establish the kingdom of God’s love in opposition to Herod’s and Caesar’s kingdoms of oppression and greed. After saying he would die on the cross, Jesus told the disciples they had to deny themselves and take up their own cross and follow him. They had to lose their life to save it.
The disciples desperately needed a vision to give them courage and a sense of direction to go where Jesus was leading. They received that vision at the Transfiguration, and we can trust that we will, too, if we follow Christ up that mountain path.
The gift of vision comes as a gift to those who need and seek it as we have found in our previous two Fulfilling Our Vision gatherings and as we hope to find true again today.
We asked ourselves what it would look like to apply the Golden Rule to several issues that are threats to human civilization, seeking a vision of our culture’s transfiguration. In every issue we see a society with a new consciousness. Acceptance and respect are at the core of the Golden Rule in every issue, and the obstacles in all cases are fear and selfishness. We see that none of the civilization-threatening problems listed on the Parish Hall walls would exist if we truly followed the Golden Rule and love of neighbor. In every case we see our church stating boldly through actions and signs our awareness of the problem and commitment to solve it, hoping to help change the consciousness of our culture.
In response to climate change we envision a new Golden Rule consciousness that sees earth, animals and plants as beings with rights, not things to exploit or destroy. We see nations working together with as much urgency as if they lived on a Pacific island that climate change is making uninhabitable right now.
In response to economic inequity and poverty we see a new Golden Rule consciousness that would choose to limit wealth and redistribute it. We envision one world with shared resources and opportunities. We see churches helping to alleviate poverty and work for equity.
In response to racism we see a new consciousness that assumes all rights and opportunities of the most privileged race need to be available to all races equally, and that recognizes our unity and common humanity. We envision a truth and reconciliation process acknowledging the devastating history of long-term structural racism and its impacts.
In response to refugees and immigration, we see a new consciousness that seeks to understand the stories and conditions behind every refugee or immigrant and to solve the problems that are driving refugees from their homes, like climate change, poverty, racism and war. We see a new consciousness of abundance, where we feel we have enough to share so all can have the place and resources they need to thrive. The Golden Rule would embrace, support and protect the importance of sanctuary.
In response to injustice, inequality or abuse related to gender or sexuality, we see a rising consciousness that treats all people with love and acceptance and insists social policies do the same. We envision people being in charge of their own bodies and identities and everyone respecting that. The new consciousness would not think in terms of stereotypes. The Golden Rule would open our eyes to the truth that we are all one.
We see that the Golden Rule is complicated. We need to ask ourselves what it requires in each situation. The complications do not mean that we should give up on the Golden Rule, they mean that part of living by it will always be the need to reflect together on the best way forward. We need the kind of listening circles that we have been using, we need collaborative communication skills throughout our society.
We see that certain things help us personally when we are trying to live by the Golden Rule. Prayer helps, as does beaming positivity and love toward a person when we are in conflict, and remembering that a difficult person was a pure and innocent baby once, and all kinds of outside forces led them to where they are now. Having a vision of what it looks like to live by the Golden Rule is essential, as is the intention to do so.
Those help us personally—similar things could help our society live by the Golden Rule. Our vision includes role models who lead by word and action, candidates who will govern by the ethic of love and allies for those with less power, privilege or resources. Kindness helps, applied to political discourse and every governmental policy. It is essential to have a beautiful, compelling vision of what a society ruled by the Golden Rule would look like. We need a committed movement of people who are willing to sacrifice and risk being uncomfortable in order to bring about that Golden Civilization.
This is the vision the Spirit is giving our congregation, and a similar vision is rising around the world. We know what the consequences will be if we do not fulfill it, and we know that we have only twelve years or so to do it.
We know as well that we are the ones who must do it. Bill Coffin, Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus himself made it absolutely clear, the church was born to do this. Its core calling is to help establish the realm of God on earth, to lay down its life for this cause. Our meeting after worship will seek a vision of exactly how this congregation will fulfill that calling.
If you find yourself doubting that we could make a difference, remember that history says otherwise. Margaret Mead was speaking as a scientific expert on human culture when she said “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
An Iberian proverb says, “Seeing is not believing; it’s the other way around. Believe. Then you will see.”
Believe, and you will see yourself and this congregation transfigured, shining the light of Christ into the world with a brilliant radiance. Believe, and you will see the world around you transfigured by the light we shine.
Let us pray in silence…