We stand together today because we care about our communities, far and near, and we know that together we can do more than we can do apart to end the prejudice that continues to spread violence and fear.
I certainly don’t need to remind any of you of the horrific hatred and violence that seems to grow like a disease around us.
We all know exactly where we were and exactly how terrified and confused we felt 15 years ago today when terrorists turned planes into bombs taking the lives of thousands of beloved human beings on American soil.
We have all watched news reports of bombs and guns in the hands of killers in nightclubs, on college campuses and city streets in Roseburg, Chicago, Charleston, Boston, and worldwide in places like France, Pakistan, Syria, and Iraq. So many communities have been touched that we cannot name them all.
We stand together today because we care and because we have not given up hope in a better world and a better future.
We talk endlessly about what could be done to stop the madness. We sometimes disagree about what should be done, but, in the end, few still feel pretty helpless to make any difference personally.
One of the things we CAN do, that truly makes a difference, is to take the time and make the personal effort, to stand together publicly against all forms of prejudice and misunderstanding, to become more aware; to educate ourselves concerning the people and issues behind the violence.
As I sat in front of my TV and watched the twin towers fall I remember thinking “Why? Dear God, Why?” and yet as I listened to one reporter after another, no one seemed to care about that question, “Why?” We can personally make a difference by asking the questions that make a difference.
The holy texts of our many faith traditions teach the ways that lead to peace. Rabbi Jesus, like Moses, Mohammad, (Peace be upon him) Buddha, and the other great prophets, taught the practice of humility and love, above all else. They taught their followers to love God and neighbor, which Jesus defined as anyone whose need you are close enough to notice, and to love your enemies, even those who persecute you.
Rabbi Jesus once taught that we must not seat ourselves at the places of honor when we come to the table, but humble ourselves, put ourselves in the last seats, become the servant, not the served. We live in a culture that no longer believes in humility. We are taught that it is best to know and speak your own mind and never admit that you struggle to find answers to some of the questions. Humility is considered, by most, a sign of weakness, or lack of knowledge. We think we need to have an opinion about everything, whether we know anything about it or not, and this leads us into non-critical thinking, stereotyping and prejudice.
I catch myself doing it all the time and I’m sure I don’t catch myself even more often. We make a difference when we learn and practice humility and compassion.
I feel sometimes as if our culture is becoming less and less able to deal with ambiguity and only able to think in categories of “all or nothing.” I hear people everyday saying things like, “Our entire government is corrupt!” ”Gun regulations will take away all our freedom!” “Illegal immigrants are dangerous criminals!” “Anyone who criticizes America is anti-American.”
We can make a difference by practicing critical thinking which acknowledges “both and” thinkingand by finding the courage to name these sort of statements for what they arestatements that breeds prejudice and fear.
As citizens we always make a difference when we vote or individually support candidates and legislature that we believe empowers the weak and vulnerable in our communities,and gives them reason to hope, even when such legislature might cost us something.
As people of faith and people of compassion, we must live and move and breatheas people of hope. Those who work firsthand with the disempowered in our communities, and in cultures around the world, tell us that the root cause of violence is most often the lack of hope.
Hopelessness takes hold when people are powerless to change their lives;when people have run out of options that might put food on their tables, protect their families from harm, pay the utility bills, provide their children with self-esteem, plan for a brighter future, prove that they are valued by others.
We can truly honor those who lost their lives on Sept 11, 2001 and the brave men and women who risked their lives to save the injured, and the families who buried their beloved and carried on, by standing together today, pledging to bring hope to the hopeless, with our own hands, with our financial support, with our hearts and minds ready to speak words that empower and heal.
Thank you for caring, thank you for the difference you have already mad and will continue to make to end the violence.
You are invited to join us for Sunday worship at 10:00 am.
Activities for children and childcare are provided.