"Community Can Only Be Modeled"


Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - November 8, 2009

Micah 4:1-5; Micah 6:6-16


     Both our scripture lessons today come from the prophet Micah who did his preaching during the last half of the 8th century before Christ was born.  The words that were read for us this morning are the passages most frequently mentioned when Micah is discussed.  These passages are filled with hope, insight and common sense. He sees very clearly what the will of God is in terms of humanity’s need to live in community.  He wrote, “Nations will stream into community and God will teach people exactly what God wants them to do.”

     As we have repeatedly discovered during the Tuesday morning Bible Study, humanity has never been without a blueprint for living lives that produce strong character, i.e., life-patterns that were addressed when Jesus preached his Sermon on the Mount. 

     Currently, we are studying the Book of Proverbs, a book filled with wisdom that is older than Micah’s words.  The road to prosperity, peace, personal responsibility and personal accountability is clearly and insightfully outlined in words that even the most uneducated person could easily understand. 

     What is intriguing about our human nature is that during this stage of our evolution we cannot consistently demonstrate the strengths of character that many of us know very well.   Paul describes this common experience best in his letter to the Romans, “Even though the desire to do good is in me, I am not able to do it.”  This quandary is so upsetting to Paul that he spent verses 14 through 25 in chapter 7 describing the inner conflict that all of us experience.  It is the struggle between our intellect and our still untrained emotions that causes us to miss the mark repeatedly. 

     Micah understood the human condition very well and basically gave up on humanity’s ability to stem the passions that are given birth by our emotions.   He concludes that God will eventually do what people cannot do.  He says, “God will settle disputes among the nations, among the great powers near and far.  They will hammer their swords into plows and their spears into instruments for pruning.  Nations will never again go to war, nor will they prepare for battle again.  Everyone will live in peace.  The Lord God Almighty has promised this.”  This morning, we are going to examine how Micah’s predictions may be closer than we imagine. 

     Is humanity living in peaceful community God’s responsibility?  We thoroughly understand that it is God’s will that peace and harmony exist among us, but as flawed as we are, it is our responsibility to create a community where timeless values can flourish.  We might think that such a society is beyond our grasp, but this is not the case. 

     One of the most amazing cultures discovered during the last 60 years is a tribe of people who have remained isolated from the rest of the world for centuries.  They are the Baduy people located in Western Java.  In fact, the entrance to their obscure mountainous rain forest region is only 100 kilometers southwest of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia.             

     What is remarkable about these people is that they have lived in total ignorance of the outside world and the 7,200 people who live there are being protected from outside influences by the Indonesian government.  For centuries these people had no currency for exchange.  They live in harmony with each other.  What is interesting is that they have no words for hate, fear, manipulation, obesity, theft and crime. When they speak to outsiders, each one looks the stranger in the eyes as though probing the spirit behind their words. 

     These people have a mystical religious heritage that appears to have roots in ancient Hinduism.  Interestingly enough, they understand about crop rotation.  They live in harmony with the land and with nature. The Baduy have a community that is struggling to fend off the encroachment of the external world.   

     Outsiders want the natural resources that are safely cloistered in this forbidden zone.  Business enterprises want to harvest their timber because the Baduy enclave is the home for countless untouched ancient forests. The military and the police carefully monitor who goes and comes from this unspoiled land and its people.  Otherwise, these people would be defenseless.  

     Micah wrote, “What God requires of us is this:  to do what is just, to show constant love and to live in humble fellowship with our God.”  A question comes to mind about what we are to do when there are those among us who are consumed with a desire to acquire what is not theirs, with using fear to place a society under the yoke of their control, with destroying religious freedom and with dictating not only the curriculum but also who in the society can be educated.  

     This week our country will honor the men and women who have stepped up in the spirit of protecting America and our values by collectively saying “No” to the forces that would undermine the principles of human freedom.          

     We could talk about the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and all the specialized agencies that patrol, police and protect everything from our Metro system to attacks from cyberspace, but this Wednesday is reserved for honoring our veterans. 

     I honestly believe that the majority of Americans long for a day when justice will rain down like water, when love will be modeled by people and institutions alike and when we can live in humble fellowship with each other and God.  We all long for the day when we can hammer our Abrams tanks into farm equipment and our stealth aircraft into improvements to our nation’s infrastructure, i.e., the building of safer bridges and highways.  That day has not yet come.

     One of the struggles of humanity is getting a diverse number of the world’s cultures to abide by the same communal spirit.   This will not happen in our lifetime or in the lifetime of our children.  Micah saw the possibilities and clearly outlined God’s will, but he wrote those visionary words 2,800 years ago.   Perhaps we are closer to that vision than ever before in human history.

     Four months ago someone sent me a small power point presentation very close to the anniversary when the United States detonated the world’s first and second nuclear bombs on two major population centers in Japan.  We can hardly imagine a bomb named “Little Boy” destroying the lives of 140,000 people in Hiroshima and another bomb called “Fat Man” ending the lives of another 80,000 in Nagasaki.  These numbers make the events on 9/11 look like a “tempest in a pot of tea.” 

     The power point showed what Nagasaki looks like today.  Out of the ashes of the August nuclear holocaust of 1945, an act that ended the war with Japan, a phoenix of the human spirit rose.  The aerial photographs reveal tall buildings, modern architecture, water ways, six lane highways and sprawling population centers that can be seen for miles.

     Where did the blueprint for Nagasaki come from?  Where did the inspiration for rebuilding Hiroshima come from? They came from a model that works! Communities that prosper are those that enable people to be educated, to be productive and creative, to be able to dream of products, services and technologies the creation of which still remains in the future.  Such communities come from realizing that their working citizens attain goals for their nation in a way that invading another country could never achieve.

     What was cast aside in Japan was an ideology that could not harness the human potential of that nation’s citizens.  Sixty-two years later Japan has the second largest economy in the world followed by Germany.  Isn’t that curious?   Two of our former enemies are now engaged in trade with other countries.  Sixty years ago when “made in Japan” was printed on a product it was the symbol of inferiority.  Today, Japanese engineering, electronics and cars are among the prized possessions of many Americans.  Japan followed the model.

     The allied forces in World War II gave those countries a future they would have never achieved by invading other nations.  What they gave them was freedom and the results that come from having personal liberty.  Little by little we are watching the acceleration of the world coming together in a gigantic diverse global community.  Japan is still invading America but this time it not with aircraft over Pearl Harbor, it is with companies like Lexus, Toyota and Nissan.  A new model for what community looks like is taking form all over the world. 

     At the stroke of midnight on June 30, 1997, England ended 150 years of colonial rule over Hong Kong.  The world held its breath concerned about what would happen to that powerful, industrious and prosperous city once it came under communist rule.

     The entrance of Hong Kong into mainland China was like introducing energetic stem cells into a culture that had been dosing for over 4,000 years.  China came to life once the Chinese realized what was economically possible by entering the 21st century as a world community trading partner.  They, too, reverse-engineered the model and applied the results to their culture.

   
 Just imagine the distance China has come.  It is now the 4th leading economy in the world. Yesterday, Wal*Mart announced that China has approved the construction of that company’s one hundredth store.  Next year China will host the World Expo in Shanghai from May 1 until October 31.  Imagine this – 190 nations have committed to the building of pavilions that will celebrate what their cultures can offer the world. Nation by nation the model of community is taking hold.  Can the world community be that far away? 

     It is interesting that those countries that remain separated from the world by choice are often labeled, “rogue nations.”  Micah said, “Many nations will come streaming together in community.” He knew that initially not all nations would be part of such a gathering.

     Until the dawning of the day that Micah envisioned, it will be up to the men and women of the armed forces to protect and guard cultures from those who choose ignorance, terrorism, savagery and dictatorships over individual freedom.  One day every nation will understand that by unleashing the potential and genius of their own citizens living within their borders, any country will be more than welcome to join the world community that has been modeled for them for years. 

     The world cannot force or impose freedom on any culture. Societies that enjoy individual liberty can only be modeled.  One day, the world that Micah envisioned will come.  Nothing that our Creator designed can be prevented from happening.  It can only be delayed.  The cost in human lives during such periods of delay, however, will continue to be enormous.  We must dream of the kind of world their courage and sacrifices will be giving to generations not yet born.  Micah’s vision of a world community is closer than we think.

THE CONGREGATIONAL PRAYER

     Loving, ever present God, too often we find ourselves struggling with the tension between our faith and our fear.  We come to you with our need to experience world peace and often your voice is silent.  We want our adventures and experiences to enhance our happiness and many of them do not.  We want those who love us to do so in a form we would prefer, but people continue to disappoint us.  How wonderful it is when understanding comes to our minds and wisdom stirs within our spirits.  Thank you for teaching us that expressing love is better than receiving it.  Thank you for guiding us to remember that all our needs will be met when we invest ourselves in expressing what will give hope to the world.  Thank you for helping us to discover that the bitter pills of life often become the best medicine.  Help us to exchange our expectations of you and of life, for the understanding that we are Disciples of Christ who still have a lot to learn.  Amen.

THE PASTORAL PRAYER

     Loving and ever present God, we come this morning with gratitude in our minds and hearts for so many dreams of imagination that literally have blossomed around us.  If we would lift our eyes beyond the issues that frequently remind us of our personal neediness, we would see that a remarkable revolution is occurring around the world.  The acceleration of how people think about each other as neighbors is beyond belief. 

     This week, we will be remembering and honoring those who have defended the principles upon which our country stands: “one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for everyone.”  Help us never to forget those who have made possible the opportunities we often take for granted, of voting for change, of seeking greater possibilities for our future, of wanting balance and stability, but above all wanting peace to reign in the world.   

     Stimulate us to want community rather than war, motivate us to join hands rather than to build fences and inspire us to find the potential within our own identities rather than coming to you with requests to unravel life’s seemingly endless chain of complicated issues.  In spite of where we are in our evolution of spirit, thank you for your guidance.  If we could lift the barriers we have created with our ideologies and theologies, we would see that your presence is among all peoples.  We pray these thoughts through the loving spirit of Jesus, the Christ, who taught us to say when we pray . . .