O God, You Speak and Summon the Earth
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
United Church of Strafford, Vermont
February 14, 2021 Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
and Transfiguration Sunday
A Reading from Psalms 50, 104, 36 & 139 and II Corinthians 4;
Call to Worship: Welcome to the United Church of Strafford, Vermont on this Last Sunday of the season of Epiphany and Transfiguration Sunday.
Epiphany celebrates the presence of God revealed in Jesus, in people, in the earth and in the universe. Epiphany begins with the light of a star and it ends with the light of Jesus shining transfigured on a mountaintop.
Transfiguration and Easter are closely related. They bookend Lent, which starts this Wednesday. They both are glorious bursts of light with a shared theme. Just before the Transfiguration Jesus tells his disciples that they have to lose their life to save it. The Transfiguration is a symbol of that spiritual death and rebirth.
When people die and come back to life they often say that they met a being of light that looked and felt like the transfigured Jesus. Many anxious people on their deathbed have found comfort in the idea of going toward that light of unconditional, all-forgiving love.
C.S. Lewis used this image at the climax of his Narnia books. People who were afraid of death overcame their fear enough to move toward the light of Aslan and found themselves in a joyful realm of ever-greater light and life and love.
Jesus called himself a son of humanity. He said the Spirit could enable any human to do the same things he did. He said we could be the light of the world. The Transfiguration is not about him, it is about us all. If we can evolve beyond our old selves, our old story, our old ways, humanity can shine with the light of Jesus. Ancient wisdom and modern science both give us hope that we can enter God’s joyful realm of oneness, justice and peace on earth, if we keep moving toward the light. Let us worship together, marching in the light of God…
[The sermon begins below.]
O God, You Speak and Summon the Earth
Psalm 50 says “O God, you speak and summon the earth.”
Physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson wrote, “The more I examine the universe and study the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known that we were coming.” Nobel Prize winning physicist Max Planck said, “I regard matter as derivative from consciousness … Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
That is how modern science says, “God speaks and summons the earth.” Or as Psalm 36 says, “With you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”
Unfortunately, we humans have trouble seeing God’s light through all the dust and distraction of daily life. The Apostle Paul wrote in II Corinthians, “The gods of this world blind people’s minds and keep them from perceiving the light shining from the image of God in Christ.”
Transfiguration Sunday helps us see that beautiful, loving light, but we need to do more than see it—we need to hear the summons to be it.
This was the central theme of Jesus’ ministry—helping us evolve so that we could see and co-create the realm of God on earth. Jesus did not come to save us by taking us away from earth into the realm of God, he came to save us by showing us that the earth truly is the realm of God and the Spirit of the universe summons humanity to love and nurture the earth for the common good of all creation.
But Western Civilization has been living by a different portrayal of reality for the last few hundred years, making up the story that we live in a material, mechanical and random universe.
Greed, competition and violence of all forms characterize that Old Story, and now it has come to its last chapter, what Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone call, “The Great Unraveling.”
Yet they see the first chapter of a New Story already starting, which they entitle “The Great Turning.” It is beginning with “the emergence of new and creative human responses” to the unraveling of ecological and social systems, bringing about a “transition from an industrial society committed to economic growth to a life-sustaining society committed to the healing and recovery of our world.”
Theologian Brian McLaren writes that humanity is “yearning for a new story, a story of love rather than hate, of creativity rather than destruction, of win-win cooperation rather than win-lose competition, of peace-craft rather than war-craft.”
“God speaks and summons the earth,” and our hearts respond with yearning. We yearn to let the Transfiguration light shine through humanity because shining that light is what we were created to do.
The New Story goes something like this:
The Spirit of the universe can be seen from the beginning over 13 billion years ago. If the universe had expanded at the tiniest fraction faster it would have exploded, or the tiniest fraction slower, it would have collapsed. Something we call a conscious Spirit, a Creator God, discerned the conditions needed to exist. It knew how to bring forth the birth of stars and planets.
It knew how to create life. The Spirit of the Universe spoke and summoned forth the first living cells on earth. It gave its own consciousness to every living thing—the knowledge of how to grow and heal and adapt and reproduce and bring new life out of the remains of what had died.
The Spirit of the Universe taught life how to evolve, progressing toward more complex consciousness and creative ability.
It summoned forth the human mind, and for the first time on earth there appeared a consciousness that was aware of consciousness and that could be a conscious instrument of the Spirit of the Universe, a creative force of love and life and light.
The Spirit is summoning our consciousness to evolve now to become as loving and wise as the heart and mind of Christ so that we can steward the earth for life to survive and thrive.
Ancient wisdom and modern science together have brought us to a place of new understanding where we are ready to make this leap forward. The meaning and purpose of our lives is to participate in this movement, using our gifts and skills to co-create the realm of God on earth with the Spirit of the Universe.
God speaks and summons the earth, and God has created us, you and me and all humanity, to be the voice that tells this New Story.
All you need to do is look at the United States Capitol Building in order to see how urgent it is that this story of oneness, justice and nonviolence becomes our culture’s shared understanding. The reversal of the Old Story’s unraveling hangs on a handful of votes. We have no time to lose.
So let us look to the light shining from Jesus, let us look toward the light shining from the faces of our children when they see that the world has made a great turning toward an earth of racial, economic and environmental justice where they may grow to a healthy old age on an earth of peace and plenty for all.
Let us pray in silence…
God’s Realm on Earth Is Hidden in Plain Sight
text: Transfiguration story; tune: NATIONAL HYMN 10.10.10.10.
God’s realm on earth is hidden in plain sight:
Transfigured trees in sunset’s golden light;
Quick smile that brightens up a clouded face;
Hard hearts that melt from ice to love by grace.
God’s realm appears wherever hand and heart
Place common good above their own small part,
Pledging allegiance to the earth as whole,
Loving each place, each creature’s light-filled soul.
Millions of hands are wielding skill and tool,
Rebuilding earth by love and Golden Rule.
We each have gifts and share a common call:
Shine forth your light, transforming life for all.
Come, let us rise! We have much work to do,
One world-wide movement, God’s light shining through,
Like Jesus, human, caked with sweat and dust,
Transfigured by the love we serve and trust.
copyright 2020 Thomas Cary Kinder