[You can watch a video recording of this Call to Worship at the end of this text. To see the entire service, click here.]
Call to Worship and Mel Goertz’s Haiku
Teaching One: What Revolution?
An Anglican Bishop in England once lamented, “Everywhere Jesus went there was revolution. Everywhere I go, they serve tea.”
The Roman Empire reserved crucifixion for revolutionaries, a form of public torture and humiliation meant to discourage rebellion. What was so revolutionary about Jesus?
He sent his disciples out to “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons,” according to today’s gospel passage. (Matthew 9:35-10:38) He instructed them to spread the good news that the realm of God was at hand and call people to metanoia, an expansion of their hearts and minds.
That sounds innocent enough, yet Jesus warned his disciples, “Beware…for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings…. and you will be hated by all…”
Everywhere the first church went there was dangerous conflict with the dominant culture. What is it about healing people and saying that the realm of God is near that will get us in trouble, and why isn’t it happening now?
Jesus was not talking about being saved and going to heaven after we die, as most contemporary churches teach. He was talking about establishing the realm of God on earth. He was asking people to change inwardly, to grow to a new level of maturity that could see the oneness and sacredness of all life as God sees it, and then to change society around them to reflect God’s love.
The problem is, people don’t like to change. Especially kings and emperors or megacorporations and the superwealthy, and those who are prospering under them.
Herod and Caesar felt that the vision of God’s realm of compassion and justice was revolutionary because their society was built on a very different perspective and set of values.
The realm of God on earth that values compassion and love comes in direct conflict with the realm of ego that values selfish materialism and the accumulation of wealth and power.
Humanity has been moving along these two tracks ever since. One track of humanity has continued to explore the full meaning of the vision of oneness and equality of God’s realm. It has applied that vision increasingly widely, abolishing slavery and liberating women and people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. It has progressed to see all people, creatures and the earth as one and sacred. In just the last few decades people on the track of God’s realm have codified a Global Ethic and Earth Charter, and sociologists are noting increasing numbers who are growing into this perspective.
The other track has progressed not in the values, wisdom or ethics of the realm of God but in the values and prowess of the human ego’s materialistic desires. The technology of weapons and tools have advanced to undreamed of capacities in the service of exploitation, oppression and the fulfillment of comfort and greed. This second track has no values that would prevent the poverty and suffering, the depletion and destruction of the earth that its materialism inflicts. Apparently even enlightened self-interest cannot restrain it.
These two tracks do not have to be in conflict. The ego is a disastrous master but a useful servant. Appropriate technology can be a gift in the service of social, economic and environmental justice.
We need the revolution of values Jesus sent his disciples out to promote, and that revolution needs us to be part of its movement to change the heart and mind of our society.
Jesus knew that if we undergo metanoia, the realm of God will appear on earth. We will see it and we will build it, with brilliant human minds being guided by equally brilliant human hearts.
Let us worship the source of those values of love and compassion, the source of God’s realm, and open our hearts to receive whatever the Spirit would have us receive here today to help us along God’s way.
Mel Goertz’s haiku for this week asks us to envision God’s realm in one of its most beautiful forms:
Imagine—a newborn fawn
following the mother
into the woods.
Let us worship together continuing on with this service.