We had such a wonderful morning at church! The perfect start to our program year. Here is this morning’s sermon. Here is the link to the TED talk that I referenced.
Rehoboth Congregational Church
September 7, 2014
A New Year & Living Out The Golden Rule
I was listening to a TED talk this week given by a woman named Karen Armstrong. TED (which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a “nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks.” Karen is a British author and commentator on comparative religion. Much of her work focuses on identifying the commonalities between the major religions, with an added emphasis on the importance of compassions and the Golden Rule.
The name of the talk that I was listening to was, “Let’s revive the Golden Rule.” The Golden Rule is not simply a Christian idea – it has roots in the other major religions, as well as general moral teachings. Armstrong spoke for approximately ten minutes on what the world would look like if we, as a human race, not only believed the Golden Rule, but we lived it out every day, all day.
“People have emphasized the importance of compassion,” Armstrong said. “Not just because it sounds good, but because it works.”
She is absolutely right. Feeling compassion towards others – works. Being good people – works. Loving others – works. Intentionally not letting differences divide us from the people around us – works. Letting our faith define who we are and what we do – works.
This is the world that I think we all so desperately want to live in.
In this morning’s reading from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, Paul reminds this growing Christian community that living a life of Christian faith really is not that complicated. We over-complicate it with our structures: With our dogma, our doctrine, our rules and our traditions. We look at so many pieces of scripture and history and then try to figure out where and how our faith should fit into it.
In this passage, Paul looks at and addresses two ways that we live out our faith. He says that if all comes down to the simple concept of love. He first talks about our relationships with one another and he then talks about how we act as individuals.
Let’s look at what Paul says about being in relationships. Paul says, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.” In other words, the foundation of our relationships should be set in love; love should be the beginning of our journeys together, not the destination. Our relationships with others do not have to be complicated and complex; they simply need to be grounded in love.
Now let’s look at what Paul says about how we act as individuals. “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’: and any other commandments, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ When it comes to how we act as individuals, again – it comes down to loving others. We can over complicate things: We can obsess over our different interpretations of scripture, over the rules and traditions of our institutions and over the many layers of our faith.
Or we can love one another.
This is not always easy. Armstrong said in her TED talk, “Often people don’t really want to be compassionate … People often want to be right instead.” We live in a world that is often plagued by the imperfections of humanity. We, as human beings, choose war over peace, division over unity, negativity over positivity, hatred over love and – indeed – the desire to be right over the desire to be compassionate.
This is not the world that we all so desperately want to live in.
But we do not have to.
In fact, we have the ability to define what the world that we live in will look like.
Armstrong said that, “religious teachings must always lead to action.” In a way, this is why it is so crucial to be part of a community of faith – our actions together are so much stronger than our actions are as individuals. This is one of the reasons that we come together – to create action.
Paul issued a charge to the Roman church to let the light of God shine in their lives. “The night is far gone, the day is near,” he said. “Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Paul urged the Romans not to let the darkness of human imperfections consume their lives, but rather to use love to create light in their lives and in the world. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” Paul said. Clothe yourselves in the love of Christ so that you have the ability to love others.
Today is Rally Day at the Rehoboth Congregational Church, United Church of Christ. It is the first Sunday of our program year, a day when we settle into a new routine, when we embrace one another after a summer away and – perhaps most strikingly – when we think about our hopes, our dreams and our visions for this community for the upcoming year. And as we re-read this passage today, I am giving you the same charge that Paul gave to the church in Rome so many years ago.
Create love in your lives; create love in this community; and create love in the world. Do not let darkness consume you and drive you to hate. Boldly break through that darkness and let the light of God shine through you and create love.
Clothe yourselves with God’s love. Feel God’s love embrace you and protect you and comfort you and then share that love with others. Be the type of Christian that you want others to be. Create a community that you are proud to be a part of. Do not act out of complicated rules and doctrines and histories; act out of a simple, yet powerful of love. Do not let yourself be divided by differences, but allow yourself the beautiful grace of being united by love.
Consider today a new beginning. Consider this worship service a revival. Consider this gathering of our community as opportunity to look into the future and smile. We can live in a world that is ruled by love, we can be part of a community that is fueled by love and we can live within families that are bound together in love. I know that we can. I believe that we can. I pray that we can.
I wish I could tell you that this will always be easy. But we are human beings and we are not perfect and loving others is not always easy.
But God will always be there to guide us, to lead us, to teach us.
The thing about the Golden Rule is that it is not inherently Christian. Like I said before, it exists – in some form or another – in other major religions and in general moral teachings. But I think that we, as Christians, follow the Golden Rule and execute it in our lives in a unique way.
The psalm that we heard this morning says, “Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes … give me understanding … lead me in the path of your commandments … turn my heart to your decrees.” It reminds us that part of living a Christian life is asking God to help us live out the Golden Rule.
There is nothing inherently Christian about doing the right thing; but there is something inherently Christian about asking God to help you do the right thing.
So that is my charge for us all this morning, and my hope and vision for us this year. Let us enter into covenant with one another and with God. Let us strengthen our community and revive a spirit of God’s love among us. Let us, the Rehoboth Congregational Church, be a bold and tangible proclamation of God’s love and the Golden Rule within our community.
And – most importantly – as we seek to do these things, let us ask God to teach us how to live a life worthy of God’s call.
Thanks be to God!