Today Minnesota’s Electoral College gathered in the State Capitol Rotunda to formally cast Minnesota’s votes for president. I have been asked to do the opening prayer on behalf of all of Minnesota(not easy to do or even possi I have been asked before but I am honored to have again been asked especially now. It seems like a particularly important time to pray. Our country is in need to prayer, think. So I want it share my prayer with you here. Perhaps it can help encourage a wave of prayer.
Creator God, in a single moment you hurled the worlds into being, countless suns yet one universe. You called forth life on our plant, diverse in its essential nature, yet of one linage and one future. You give us one another with a great diversity of gifts and the whisper of a uniting vision. And you invite us to join you in the ever-unfolding work of manifesting the interrelatedness of your creation community.
Today we join the millions who pray for Newtown CT and mourn the loss of the twenty children and six adults at the Sandy Hook School. May our democracy help us to find ways to protect our children as the president has asked.
Today we also thank you:
for the gifts of wisdom and conviction in those who have gone before us,
for the untold workers in the service of democracy
for deep commitment of the people of Minnesota’s to the voting process.
for the ways this national election season may have opened up the path toward more common good.
And we confess the ways in which we also let our election season trap us in accusatory posturing, disrespect, and fear. Give us a new commitment to your gift of democracy, honoring it in all we do, and in the decisions that are made on our behalf.
We call on you, Most Holy One, to be a witness to our hope this day.
And we ask that You would give hope to our days to come.
We know you are the God of blessing and power and we ask that you bless the efforts of this day and of the days to come, that they may bear fruit in our nation.
Bless this gathering and those whose efforts bring it about. May what we do here today increase our ability to be a blessing to democracy and may our democracy to the worldwide common good.
With longing hearts we pray for the fullness of peace, justice, and wellbeing for all.
For peace, for shalom, salaam, shanty; may it all be so, amen
I began getting the AARP magazine a few years back. You know what that means; I am, as they say, “Of an age...” The first years were harder, I began to think of all the things I would never do. I would never be a trapeze artist. I would never run a marathon (I don’t think). I would never have lovely hands, even though I now had the discipline to take good care of my nails (aren’t they lovely) the arthritis has swollen my knuckles. I am unlikely to see great-grandchildren. I waited until I was thirty-six to have a child. If she waits that long, and her daughter waits that long, I’d have to be 108 - I suppose it is possible. At this point my ability to produce financially is closing in and I realize that I will never own that stone mansion on highway seven, or a cabin on Lake Superior, much less ride the Orient Express.
And yet the possibilities are still limitless, infinite, I have realized. There are things I can’t, won’t, do but the things I could do are endless. I am not likely to visit every lake in Minnesota (have about 9500 of them to go). But I could drive a boat along the whole shoreline of Lake Minnetonka. I am not likely to take a solo trip down the whole length of the Mississippi, but I could canoe for a mile at a number of points along it. Or walk a mile at the beginning and at the end. I am not going to start a gardening business but I could pull a weed in my yard every minute of every day, I think. Or how about get a purple ribbon at the country fair for my roses?
I am never going to be the President of the United Sates of America, but I could send him (or her) a letter on the first of every month, or every Sunday, or every day, or an email every hour – you get the idea. Possibilities are endless.
I will not discover the cure for cancer, but I can work on making the last days of a cancer patient better with support of a family who is going through such a time. Or I may be able to be involved in the on-going work with the local hospital to build up its hospice system. Or I could join a group working to change the Medicare laws for better support of hospice. Or contact my local state representative to find out what kind of legislation he or she is thinking about that might affect these issues. Or I could give a donation to one of the cancer charities or walk in the 5k to raise money and awareness. Or put together a hospice study at church. I could read up on a certain kind of cancer so that I can figure out how I could be helpful.
The point is this, that while my infinity doesn’t include every possibility it does include an endless number of possibilities? So if you’re now of AARP age, or any age – know that the possibilities we still have are endless, we just have to imagine things in a new way.
During the 12 days of Christmas, which ended on January 5, my family celebrated the birth of Christ. We celebrated the day that God enfleshed was born to redeem the created world. We remembered the woman giving birth in a barn, the wise men following a distant star, and Mary, Joseph and Jesus’ lifesaving escape from their own country. We celebrated this family’s life and the day of our savior’s birth with acts of gift-giving and good will.
Those days of kindness and outreach do not end because the season is passing. The birth of Christ is not solely a reminder for us to be kind to others. It is also a call to action. When we remember the Christ child, we remember that the image of God, imago dei, exists within each person. We remember that what we do to each other, we do to God.
This is a useful reminder when we realize that, shortly after the 12 days of Christmas, we are facing the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Actions undertaken by U.S. officials at Guantanamo Bay reflect forgetfulness about the God image in each person. Shortly after its establishment on January 11, 2002, it began developing a legacy of detainee torture.
Torture is a moral abomination. It degrades all involved—the victim, the perpetrator and the policymaker. Such action strips us of the belief of God in the other. Torture runs contrary to the teachings of all religions. This is affirmed by the more than 300 religious organizations that belong to the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, including the Minnesota Council of Churches, and who have affirmed the need to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
In addition to being morally wrong, torture does not work. Interrogators with the U.S. military, the CIA and the FBI acknowledge that torture is an unreliable method of extracting information from detainees. The worst part is that our use of torture has itself been cited by terrorists to recruit followers who in turn further endanger U.S. troops. The practice of torture and existence of Guantanamo Bay have cost us dearly, increasing the United States’ vulnerability to physical and moral attacks and endangering our citizens abroad.
Don’t believe me? Ask Shane Bauer, one of three American hikers and a Minnesota native held for two years in Iran, the impact of the actions taken at Guantanamo Bay on his imprisonment. He said that every time he protested the inhumane conditions of their imprisonment, the guards reminded them of comparable conditions at Guantanamo Bay.
Torture and its symbol, Guantanamo Bay, have hurt the United States. I was grateful that when President Obama took office three years ago, he halted torture with an executive order. He also promised to close Guantanamo Bay. The latter has not happened, and I am fearful that with no law enacted making torture illegal, future administrations will not be prevented from reversing Obama’s executive order and employing torture.
Perhaps the reason no law yet exists while Guantanamo still does is because we do not yet have a full record of what has been done in our name. There has been no Commission of Inquiry to investigate who was tortured, who authorized the torture, and how we can ensure that we do not in the future descend so deeply into the dark cave of fear that we cannot see the difference between meritorious intelligence-gathering and self-defeating interrogation techniques.
On January 18, 2012, let us resolve to continue our climb out of that dark cave. Let us find at least enough daylight to illuminate what has been done through a Commission of Inquiry as well as to see the God in each other. Let us pray for a full blast of cleansing sunlight that can close down Guantanamo Bay and ensure that we as a nation never again condone the absolutely immoral act of torture and never coerce any of our own into committing it. This could be an act of gift-giving and goodwill for generations to come.
When some Minnesotans said, “No new taxes.” What did they mean?
“Take us into un-payable debt."
“Borrow from education in a way that we can never pay back.”
“Take action which will downgrade the state’s credit rating.
I don’t think so.
And when Minnesotans elected a governor who said, “I will increase taxes on those who make more than $2 million every year.” What did we mean?
“We really don’t want you to raise taxes on the wealthiest.”
“We really like the tax system in Minnesota where the higher your income the lower percentage of tax you pay.”
“We think that the tax cuts that Jesse Ventura gave to the richest Minnesotans should continue even though they are unfair to the rest of us and plunging us into debt.”
I don’t think so.
And yet the partisan politicians who vowed to keep the “no new taxes” pledge at any cost have kept this state from being the best we can be. Even worse, they are quicly tumbling us, at best, toward being a mediocre Minnesota.
Taxes themselves may be a subject that doesn’t often move the faith community but the way we tax as a state is certainly a moral concern. Is our tax policy fair?
It is not. We are not taxing fairly. Middle class households pay a little over 12 percent in state and local taxes. The wealthiest five percent of households pay 10.1 percent. The poorest families pay the highest rates of all.
We are not taxing fairly and because we do not, we are pushing off onto our children our unpaid bills.
I do not wish to leave a legacy of debt to our children, and I do not believe that a legacy of poverty and underinvestment is the Minnesota we want to be.
As the dust settles and the budget deal is signed we are still being asked to answer a central question about who will we be as a state. Let your legislative representative know how disappointed you are. Let them know that tax increases aren’t always bad. That taxes increases done to rebalance fairness is a good idea. Let them know that a tax system built on fairness and justice is a good Minnesota ideal.
Let them know that a few extreme politicians who have been hoodwinked by an invalid “no new taxes” ploy aimed at protecting the wealthiest - let them know- that those representatives do not represent the Minnesota we want to be.
Then go out and ask all your friends to join you. A message must be sent and must be sent now. And the people of Minnesota are the only ones who can turn this around. As a people, we have only pushed off our moment of crisis into our children’s future. Join me today in a belief that good stewardship is essential to the health of our communities and our state. It is time for people of faith to step up and say we as Minnesotans can do better.
Much is made in the media of the breakdown of civility, of lack of security and all the threats that cause us fear, especially from “other” people. Terrorism, by its nature senseless with random capacity to target any of us at any time, lays a cloud of fear and apprehension in our hearts and minds. Stereotypes of “others” compounds the alienation among our society. Fear breeds fear, and sometimes it evolves to hatred and violence.
Over fifty leaders of a wide range of religious traditions in Minnesota met this week for a three and a half hour session to counter such forces. It was a simple but carefully facilitated evening of getting acquainted and having purposeful conversations together in an effort to build relationships across lines of differences—differences of religion, tradition, ethnicity, and culture. The leaders shared hopes, concerns and ideas as well as deeply held values, texts and resources from their own traditions which speak to the value of knowing one another.
The social fabric of our community and state was strengthened that evening with new expressions of respect, and the value of knowing each other, as these religious leaders listened, shared and built new connections with one another. Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, American Indian, Bahai, Muslim, Jew, Christian, and various sub-divisions of some of these, were present and participating. In fact, the group saw value in those differences informing and enriching us, even helping us deepen our understanding and conviction in our own traditions.
The participants did converge on the need to get positive symbols, images and messages into the media about standing together without giving up our differences. The “old media” wasn’t present--not invited to this fresh opening of new relationships. It was not about the press. Yet there is hope that the new media will carry many testimonials—like this one—of the new mutual respect. Who knows what ripple or what multiplier effect will emanate from this occasion.
Look for these leaders to be standing together at 9-11-11 and other times as well, for the good of all people of Minnesota. All agreed there is no place for the hate that breeds terrorism and we must stand together against such hate.
In a democracy, religious freedom must prevail and respect for such freedom must grow. May we all share in the blessings of standing together in new and enriching relationships with “other” people.