[You can watch a video recording of this Call to Worship at the end of this text. To see the entire service, click here.]
Teaching One: You Have What the World Needs—Call to Worship and Herbert Goertz’s Haiku
Is God an old white man with a long beard sitting on a throne looking at his iphone surveillance app to decide who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, and who deserves to starve and be homeless and who to be super-rich and have three houses and a survival bunker?
Is Jesus Christ the one and only biological son of that old man, a son who was thrown to earth by his father to be slaughtered like a sacrificial calf, but then whoever bowed down to that golden calf as their lord and savior would be saved and get a free ticket to heaven? And along the way the saved would have the right to oppress, abuse, rob, force into poverty or murder anyone who looked or thought differently from them?
If that’s the story we tell ourselves, then of course we can do whatever we want. If the dominant narrative of an entire culture or nation is that it is chosen and supreme, then it will treat as disposable not only people of races, religions, genders and socio-economic levels that it deems inferior but also other nations and species and the earth itself.
I am not saying that this exaggerated cartoon of God is our culture’s narrative, but I hope it makes clear why we have to change our story about ourselves before our society can truly reform our ways. We can look at the crisis our world is in today and feel a range of emotions—anxiety, rage, depression, grief—but we can also feel tremendous hope because we can see the stage being set for humanity to make an evolutionary leap forward.
Gus Speth lists six ingredients necessary to change the consciousness of humanity, and all six are falling into place. One, polls show a rapidly increasing awareness of the calamities of environmental destruction and social and economic injustice. Two, we have a whole new generation of wise leaders, epitomized by Greta Thunberg, but she is only one of thousands in, three, a newly unified social justice and environmental movement. Four, the effectiveness of their communication and social marketing skills is proven by millions of people becoming woke and taking to the streets. Five, models are proliferating of new ways of policing, of governing, of equitable economic development, of sustainable, harmonious environmental living.
And last but not least in Gus’s list, the dominant narrative of our culture is changing, partly because we are listening to other narrators. We hear a completely different story when we allow Native Americans or the descendants of enslaved Africans to tell it. The story of human civilization is completely different when we allow children to speak whose future is being destroyed by the social, economic and environmental injustices that our civilization is perpetrating.
We need to change our narrative even more deeply for a lasting revolution of values and transformation of human consciousness. We need to change our religious and spiritual understanding of who we are in the universe.
Miraculously, this is happening just in time. It began in the Christian tradition in the middle of the 20th Century with the rise of liberation theology and the Second Vatican Council and the mystical Jesuit scientist Teilhard de Chardin. It continued through the work of Thomas Berry and Matthew Fox. Today hundreds of visionary leaders in all religions are narrative changers, like the Dalai Lama, Richard Rohr, Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grimm.
A new story of God is emerging from a fresh reading of scriptures and science—a God who is love, who exists in loving relationship to all, who is the energy or force of light and life that has been moving through the universe since its beginning, who is the source of natural laws not as a king but as the soul of all nature. God is a being whose body is the universe, whose manifestation is in the vast overarching movements of galaxies and in every particular, intimate life. The loving force we name God set in motion the ingredients that shaped the earth and the ingredients that sparked the first living cells and the ingredients we see coming together today for the next step in the evolution of human consciousness.
Only two thousand years ago, a blink of an eye in evolutionary time, a man named Jesus opened himself as widely and purely as anyone ever had to that Spirit. He attained the loving relationship of God with all creation. He taught and worked for social justice and lifted the oppressed from God’s perspective of oneness. He lived and died as a manifestation of a human narrative that few people had ever glimpsed.
His followers attempted to make sense of this new story. They gave Jesus the name Christ, meaning the one who could liberate and save the world from violent forces of fear, greed and oppression. They saw that the Christ ideal was present from the start of the universe, that it was the true life of all, a light that shines in the darkness that the darkness cannot overcome. They saw this life and light in the flesh, shining through Jesus.
They saw that Christ is something that can live in us each. We can have Christ-light and Christ-love, the heart and mind of Christ. They saw that the church can be the body of Christ, a community with the heart, mind and soul of Christ.
This is what will save the world, not believing in Christ but being Christ, undergoing the same evolution of consciousness and personal transformation that he did, dying to our old way of being and rising again as a new humanity that is one with God and neighbor and the earth, whose highest law is to live as God does in loving relationship with all, whose highest purpose is to serve as a force of love and life and light on earth for all creatures and the planet itself.
Christ is our shalom, as the choir sang in the Introit, and when we are the body of Christ, we are God’s force of shalom in the world. That is the new story we need to write with our lives.
Herbert Goertz’s haiku for this week captures the new narrative of the oneness of all the universe, and it also introduces the stars of today’s second teaching which you will find in the Time with Children (and Adults) below. Here are Herbert’s words:
Fireflies at night
Dancing galaxies of light
The joy of being
Let us worship together continuing on with this service.