My Prayer today and Everyday

I just came from Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Interfaith Prayer Breakfast at the official LA Mayor’s residence, Getty House.  It is a beautiful grand home with a beautiful back yard and rose bushes and flowers and native Southern California planting.  But the colorful garb of the attendees today really made the back yard burst with beautiful hues.  Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Jews of all stripes, Episcopalians, Catholics, Presbyterians, Humanists, Religious Science, Kabbalists, Wiccans, Quakers, Buddhists of many different streams, African-Methodists, Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, Mormons, Adventists, Scientologists, Asian church leaders, Assembly of God ministers, Armenian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Maronite Christian, Evangelicals, Native American religion all were together this morning.  All dressed in a variety of robes, and mantels, collars, and kippot.

Los Angeles is truly a remarkable city.  This is the most diverse city in the world with more of the world’s religions and faith traditions represented here than anywhere.  In the over 35 years I have lived in Los Angeles, I have met so many different kind of people; some from every nation and heritage.  Representatives of many different faith groups were together today and prayed together today not only for our Mayor and his family, but our City of Angels, our State, our Nation and the world.

We all had a moment to rise and offer a prayer that began with ” I pray that…. ”

We were inspired by a message of hope and prayer from a African-American Christian pastor, a groundbreaking young Muslim woman leader, and a rabbi.  They each spoke from different traditions but their common message was about the dignity of humanity and how we must see the divine in each human being.  That was Mayor Garcetti’s prayer as well.

If we can spend an hour and a half here in Los Angeles, praying together and linking our hands with our common bonds, imagine what could be done if we exported that same spirit around the world.  That is my prayer for today and everyday.

Where there is love, there is Justice

This was the sermon I delivered at the Multi-Faith Prayer Service in Washington, DC on Sunday April 26 for for Unite for Marriage.  It was delivered at the National City Christian Church.

Where there is love there is Justice. We gather here in this sacred place for seeking many things. We seek strength from one another as our lives are under scrutiny once again by the nation’s highest court. We fill our hearts with love for one another. We prayerfully seek God’s holy presence by our side. You O Holy one did not you make us also in your image? Everyday our humanity is questioned. Our humanity is daily threatened by so much pain and violence, an assault on personhood.  Our dignity is daily threatened by words and deeds across this nation as LGBT people seek to live and love in peace.  This night before our case is presented in the earthly court we appeal to Divine Justice in Your Heavenly Court, God.  We know that love and justice flows from You. You taught us with your words and deeds. You advised us to pursue justice vociferously. Tzedek Tzedek tirdof, Justice justice you shall pursue. And we have lived your words.  This LGBTQ movement for equality has been on the move. State by state. Conversation by conversation, lawsuit by lawsuit, wins and losses at the ballot box. But we have kept moving forward. Pursue justice You told us and that what we all have done and worked for activist, lawyers, and the everyday people who just wanted to marry their partner whether they were together 5 months, 5 years or 50 years  Tuesday the Supreme Court can bring about a full measure of Your justice God by extending marriage equality throughout this land. The time for love is now. The time for justice is now. For where there is love there is justice.

A teacher took a group of high school seniors on a nature hike. They walked along the winding trail of a steep hillside until they reached an area that looked out over a lush valley. The rocky hill behind them stood in stark contrast to the terraced slopes before them on which olive trees and grapevines were planted.

“Isn’t it remarkable,” said the teacher, “that right on the other side of this hill is a rocky slope that leads down to a muddy river. But on this side is a fertile valley where things are blossoming

“The same sun shines on both sides of this hill and the same clouds bring rain to this whole area. Yet, most of the growth is happening over here,” the teacher said, pointing to the valley before them.

The students looked about and nodded silent.

“I want you to think about this,” the teacher continued.  “At one time the valley wasn’t so lush and green. It was rocky and the landscape looked the same as the hill behind us.

“But with vision and hard work, the rocks were removed, the ground terraced, the soil prepared, trees and vines were planted. Lovingly the ground was nurtured. And after a while things took root and began to grow. For where there is love, there is growth.

“This valley is what your life can become,” the teacher said.  “Until now, everything you’ve learned, experienced has brought you to the place where the rocks have been cleared away. You will grow more.

In a few weeks you will graduate, the teacher told the seniors and then it will be up to you to build the terraces and plant the seeds that will develop throughout your lives. You will have the responsibility to love the land, to nurture it and help it grow.

“No work, no planting”, the teacher commented as he pointed to the rocky hillside behind them, “you’ll end up with a lot of obstacles to negotiate around.

“A plan and hard work will yield a fruitful growth, the teacher said pointing to the valley below. “it will take even more hard work to maintain this kind of growth , but which would you rather your life resemble.  (Bits and Pieces, Ragan Communications).

No matter the decision of the court win or lose, we will as a community need to maintain the growth and justice that we have sought. In either case we must love more-for where there is love there is justice. Even if we have a successful outcome in June and marriage bells ring across the land our work to bring justice and equality will not be over. There are still rocky cliffs in our way. We need full employment protection and protections in housing and education.  We need to adopt our children without hurdles and have access to the health care.

Our work for justice will continue no matter the outcome in June.

Through prophet Micah We were instructed: What does God require of you? Only Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with Your God.  This is what we have done in the courts and at the ballot box and in our daily lives. We have sought to uplift equality and liberty for LGBT people. And tonight we seek, God, Your Loving Presence. Walk with us! Share Your bounty and abundant love with all those who seek to create a world where human dignity is lifted on high. For where there Your love is, there is justice. Teach us to do as You have instructed us despite our neighbors’ objections. To love them as ourselves. Spreading Your message of unending love. Ahavat Olam. Eternal love  for Your creations

We gather here tonight to inspire each other and to send a message loud and clear to everyone in this nation. That people of faith stand with the LGBT community. This is not religion against queer people but rather a revolution has occurred and I am proud to be a part of this. At the core of my religious faith is the eternal promise of justice for all.  Not for some but a vision that one day all people of good will and good faith and no faith shall sing in one voice an anthem of peace and liberty.  And we cannot gather tonight only 35 miles from Baltimore when there are others who lack equality and justice. Our community has known police brutality. After all the Stonewall riots were a response in 1969 to continued police harassment. And there will be no justice and equality until all are at the table

In Jewish tradition we teach that the Sabbath is a foretaste of the world to Come. A messianic time of peace for all people. It is not  limited to just some folks but is available to everyone. The Sabbath is a model of how the world might be. A world where we aren’t rushed or preoccupied with work. A world where poverty and violence are gone. A world where someone always has your back. A world where children go to bed at night with warm full bellies, safe and secure knowing they are loved. The Sabbath is the taste of the ideal where we can rest from our labors and enjoy the true gift of freedom and taste God’s abundance bounty and give thanks for that bounty. Our gathering tonight is a similar taste of that world. To help us imagine a world where LGBT people are always safe from violence. A world where we can taste the bounty of our love and equality. A world where there is no poverty of the body or the spirit. A world whether you pray to Jesus or Allah, Krishna or meditate on the energy of life can join in peaceful communion. A world where everyone’s got your back. A world where police protect the innocent rather than murder them. A world where the Supreme Court avoids politics and truly seeks justice and equality for all of Americas citizens including extending civil marriage equality throughout this nation.  For where there is love, there is justice.

Jewish Roots of Christianity

If you haven’t made plans yet for the festival of Shavuot evening-come study Torah with us at Kol Ami.  This year our Scholar in Residence for our Tikkyn Leyl Shavuot- is Dr. Rabbi Joshua Garroway. Dr. Garroway is an assistant Professor at our Reform Seminary, Hebrew Union College. His specialty is early Christianity and the Second Commenwealth. This is the time often referred to as the Intertestimental Period, when the Temple still stood and Christianity was just beginning.

He completed his rabbinic studies at HUC-JIR and is doctorate at Yale.

Shavuot is the Festival that commemorates the giving of Torah on Mt. Sinai and it is customary to spend the evening in study! We will learn with Dr. Garroway  His topic will be “Torah Tours and Detours: The Torah according to Paul.” This will be a fascinating evening to see how early Christianity took Jewish teachings as their own.  For anyone living in the world today it is important to understand where Judaism and Christianity share common themes.

I hope you can be with us at 7 pm on Tuesday June 7 at Kol Ami!  See you then and Happy Shavuot.

Post Katrina New Orleans

Being here in New Orléans is amazing.  The last time I was here was the early 1980’s.  So to be here now in Post Katrina New Orléans is really something.  The city is still rebuilding.  And lots of areas that are still in need of help.  But there is a spirit here that is hard to quantify.  New Orléans always was a party city.  Unique.  But there is a special spirit of renewal here that is unlike any I have felt in a while.  Tulane President Dr. Scott Cowan spoke to us on the first night of the conference. He talked about the resilience of the people of New Orléans. That spirit of resilience and innovation is helping New Orléans come back.  The city went from a population of about 450,000  way down.  Now it has climbed back to over 350,000. There are some people who will never return having rebuilt their lives elsewhere (Houston, Dallas, Baton Rouge).  But there are lots of others moving in. Taking a chance. There are lots of young people being attracted to New Orléans for this can do spirit.

And its invigorating.

In talking to some of the interfaith clergy leaders that came to study and dialog with us here at the Central Conference of American Rabbis Convention, I learned about the many civic projects that they are involved with.  And the many projects that they worked on together to bring back this city from the annihilation of Katrina.  They have done incredible work together and there is a wonderful spirit of interfaith cooperation here that is a model for other communities.  There is a respect that comes from building with the hands and the heart. In New Orleans there hasn’t just been talking at each other but joining together to literally rebuild homes and parks and lives.

That is the spirit of cooperation, collaboration and renewal.

Now if we could only do that for the rest of America!!!!

World AIDS Day 2010

Don’t forget World AIDS Day is Wednesday Dec. 1.  It seems the world often does forget. It does forget those with HIV/AIDS.  Whether in Africa, or here in the U.S. HIV is still ever-present.  Lurking. Waiting to attack.

On Wednesday Dec. 1 we will have a chance to focus the world’s thinking on AIDS. Remind the world and government leaders that not enough is being done to combat this disease which affects so many people world wide.  World AIDS Day will remind us that after all these years there still is no cure, no vaccination and that people are getting infected.  In worsening economies so many prevention education programs have been decimated.  That is why we must be sure to talk with young people who don’t see it as the killer disease any more.

But I remember.  I know.  I see the lives it has wrecked havoc on.  The debilitating  complications that come from infection with HIV.  The exhaustion.

So on this coming Wednesday pause to remember those who have died.  Write a letter to your Congress person and to President Obama not to forget the fight against AIDS and HIV both here in the U.S. and globally.

And join with Kol Ami and MCC for an interfaith World AIDS Day Service of Hope and Remembrance at 7 pm at MCC/LA in Los Feliz.   The address is 4953 Franklin Av  Los Angeles 90027.  I hope you will join us.  (Yes it is the first night of Chanukah and we will observe that as part of the service–shining light into the darkness about HIV/AIDS and rededicating ourselves to end AIDS.)  BE THERE.