I pray for two things on this Labor Day. First, for the people of Minnesota who work, or long to work, that labor would result in sustenance for daily need, for all those affected by labor dispute, those engaged in the discussions, their families, those laid off from work, those who have had no work for a long time, those whose businesses or services and ministries have been halted.
Secondly, I pray for a new vison and experience of reconciliation in the midst of conflict. I pray that our tendencies toward fragmentation and alienation would be overcome by desire for reconciliation. I pray for swift, peaceful, and just resolution to any labor conflicts, that we might find in one another the needed co-creators of the common good.
We give thanks today for the lack of violence related to labor issues in our time. My grandfather was at the Maytag plant in Newton Iowa; in 1938 when violence erupted and men were killed (according to family stories); he never fully recovered from that experience. We remember the strike of the Minneapolis Teamsters in 1934 in which police fired on striking truck drivers. Drivers were demanding recognition of their union, wage increases, and shorter working hours. As violence escalated, Governor Olson declared martial law in Minneapolis, deploying 4,000 National Guardsmen. We have turned some important corners since then and thankfully violence is not a part of labor disputes in Minnesota these days. Yet we still fall short of seeing each other as co-creators of the common good.
I share a passage which is part of the shared sacred texts of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. This scripture passages has stood for centuries witnessing to the reality that life in community often entails deep and difficult struggles. The Isaiah calls the community to “quit pointing the finger and speaking wickedness.” The prophet reminds us, the community, the king, the powers that be, that community is a delicate thing which needs careful tending. The Isaiah passage offers us encouragement in such efforts.
“If you take away from the midst of you the yoke,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and you gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your desire with good things,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters fail not,
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairers of the breach,
the restorers of streets to dwell in.
We still live in a culture which too often has seen disagreement erupt into finger pointing and the speaking of wickedness about each other. Our community -- that is our cities, our state, our country, our world -- our community continues to divide itself into special interest shards, shards which can’t carry a commitment to a common good. In such a moment we call upon one another to pick up those many shards in many colors to carry them gingerly to the place where together with others we can build a new stain glass window to the future, boisterous in its color, reverent in its commitment. In the midst of the rending of the fabric of society we are called to be repairers of the breach.
I call upon us all to be part of a new model which understands the right of self- interest but also the responsibility to negotiate that self-interest in the context of the larger community. We, in Minnesota have a heritage which is built on the understanding that the larger vision of self-interest is directly related to community interest. Let us pray that we all would turn toward that promised day, so that we can’ raise up the foundations of many generations; and be called the repairers of the breach, the restorers of streets to dwell in.’
I am of the first generation to see a photo of the earth from space. In that view is one, single, earth. It is a view of the connectedness, and that new view of the world helped launch a new worldview. It’s a worldview our sacred Scriptures had already offered us over the centuries, a view of the unity of creation. It's always been a part of who we are and yet for the first time some of us got to see that oneness, we got to see the actual view of the world that ought to push us to a new worldview. It is a worldview that says, “no matter what you do it has a relationship to everybody else and every other thing on this planet. There cannot be a breeze in Alaska that's not felt in the Bahamas. There cannot be a ripping up the earth in Peru that's not felt in New England. There cannot be a war in Eastern Europe that isn’t experienced by all of us in some way around the world.”
I pray that in seeing the view of the world we embrace a worldview that requires us to take seriously how every action, every public policy has an environmental impact not just for our small space on the planet but the whole planet, not just this small moment on the planet but for the entire future of the entire planet. We must recognize that we are merely tenants on this planet, and we have been called to care for Creation so that future generations can live, thrive, and enjoy it just as we do. God has granted us use of Creation, but along with this gift comes the responsibility to tend and care for the land.
Earlier this year a letter was sent to President Obama form the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches of Christ, and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs among other national religious leaders.
Dear Mr. President:
We write to you as leaders representing an alliance of diverse religious traditions…The broader religious community shares a deep conviction that the issue of global climate change presents an unprecedented threat to the integrity of life on Earth and a challenge to values that bind us as human beings.
Then they said to the President, as I say to our elected officials here in MN, “as you make key decisions … we urge you to be guided by a moral framework that includes … being responsible stewards of God’s creation.” Here in MN support a Minnesota Clean Energy Plan. Protect our lakes, our rivers, our streams our drinking water, and not just for us but for our children unto the 7th generation.
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.