Thursday, January 31, 2019

Invocation -Board meeting - TBE Las Cruces - January 30, 2019 - Your Love, Your Way

God our Hope,

God our Guide,

God our Companion,

God our Inspiration, 

Be with us 

As we gather to discuss

How best to preserve the well-being

And sustenance

Of our congregation. 

Enable us to identify wide-ranging possibilities

To discover new ways to employ tried and true approaches

To connect with community members

To spark their interest

To enlist their energy

To ensure their commitment

To our collective future. 

God our Hope,

Keep us positive so that we will envision 

Our own mutual achievement and success. 

God our Guide, 

Lead us to form bonds with others

That are founded in respect, sincere connection and warmth. 

God our Companion, 

Open our eyes to Your presence with each of us 

And among us 

within the image of a bush that burns unconsumed.

God our Inspiration, 

Open our hearts to recognize Your spirit within each other

And in each of us

So that we will continue walk upon a common path

That leads us to Your love and Your way. 


Friday, January 25, 2019

Still Standing at the Foot of a Mountain - Parashat Yitro - January 25, 2019

Eternal One, Soul of the Universe,

Creator who sustains our very existence,

Giver of the wisdom that guides us every day, 

We read in our Torah

That our ancestors stood at the foot of a mountain

That was covered by a dense cloud

Surrounded by lightning with thunder resounding

With fire rising and the ground quaking

With all of these signs that made the people tremble

Being attributed to Your overwhelming presence

Before the revelation 

Of teachings that would establish a path

For so many people within the family of humanity. 

On this day, in our time, as we consider these words again 

Of an experience that evoked awe and fear

We recognize that that it is not only at the foot of a mountain 

That we find You, but along our life’s journey

In moments of challenge,

At the crossroads of decision,

In times of celebration, 

With new beginnings, 

And with the conclusion of a chapter 

In our personal and common story. 

What echoes down to us across the centuries

From our venerated text, which is carefully inscribed on a scroll, 

Are directives that remain central 

From the book of the teaching of Moses: 

All people deserve freedom because You desire that for us; 

We should not make idols of anything or anyone;

Our speech must be marked by holiness; 

There must be sacred time set aside when our rest will lead us to what is truly holy; 

Those who gave us life deserve honor and reverence;

Life itself and our relationships are inviolably sacrosanct; 

What is ours is ours, and it can be someone else’s as well only if we so desire; 

Words which subvert the truth will upset the balance that we call justice;

And that we must be content with what we have because our covenant with You must be reflected in our mutual respect towards one another. 

All of these instructions accompany us and move us toward You

Even while we still stand at the foot of the mountain

That is our lives

Because You are not only at the summit of the universe

You remain among us, and inside of us, 

Inspiring us to goodness, to kindness, to mercy, to truthfulness, and to integrity. 

Be with us always as we strive to become the best 

Of what You would hope for each of us.    


Monday, January 21, 2019

Be the light, Be the love - Invocation for Las Cruces NAACP MLK Breakfast - January 21, 2019

Eternal God,

Creator of us all, 

Sustainer of our lives

With food, faith, and friendship, 

Ever-accessible source of hope, 

What can we do when we are surrounded by

People driven by fear? 

How can we overcome the pervasiveness of hatred? 

What abilities have you given us 

to prevail

In our struggle for equality? 

We honor today the memory of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Who engaged in this struggle throughout his life, 

As he was surrounded by people who acted out of hatred and fear

And ignorance of “the other.” 

We remember his words that directed his response and can inspire us today: 

“I have decided to stick with love

Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Because of Dr. King’s leadership

We know that hate will only 

harden our hearts

And that love will open our hearts

To compassion

To understanding

To mutual support

To the common humanity that You, O God,

Have placed inside every one of us

So that we can more easily find each other 

And make common cause with one another

To create a better world. 

Dr. King taught us that

Love is not reserved for just some people;
it is for everyone. 

Justice is not reserved for only some people, 

it is for everyone. 

And the possibility of living a good life, 

one of opportunity and even prosperity, 

Should be for everyone. 

We can make this happen 

Through love

Through support

Through listening to 

our respective stories

Through caring 

Through healing 

And through hope. 

God is telling us now 

Be the light that drives out darkness

Be the love that drives out hatred. 

Be the angels of mercy and compassion 

That will make real the promise of justice, freedom and equality. 

And remember that you can only do this together. 

May we hear God’s voice in our sharing of community this morning. 

And May God’s Oneness resonate

deep within our hearts every moment of every day so that we will learn

To become one.  


Sunday, January 20, 2019

WE are America - some of my remarks at the NAACP Dona Ana County branch Martin Luther King, Jr. march in Las Cruces on January 20, 2019

I shared spontaneous comments and a benediction at the NAACP Dona Ana County Branch Martin Luther King, Jr. March on January 10, 2019 (I knew in advance I was going to be asked).
When I speak “unscripted,” I am never able to reproduce exactly what I said, but I know it came from the heart. Here is my best summary: 
I started my brief remarks by noting that today is the 77th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, the meeting at which leaders of the Third Reich planned their “final solution to the Jewish problem,” vowing to put to death not only Jews in lands already under control of the Nazi regime, but Jews living in the Soviet Union all the way to Siberia (if the Nazi armies made it that far).
Fast forward to October 27, 2018, when a man who shares the hatred of the Nazis sought to do the same thing to Jews worshipping at Tree of Life synagogue because he thought they were helping to bring “invaders” into this country in the form of people seeking freedom here, hoping for a welcome from a free country.
Both the Nazis and this shooter were acting primarily out of fear. But we have the opportunity to overcome fear by working together, sharing our stories, learning about each other, and acting out of fellowship and love.
During our march, we sang “God Bless America,” written by Irving Berlin, a Jewish immigrant to the United States. While some people have a very narrow view of what America should be and what it should look like, we need to realize and declare that WE are America, we from all of our various backgrounds, and through our work, through our coordinated action, we won’t let anyone forget that.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Do We Have a Dream? Sermon - Parashat Beshallach and MLK weekend - January 18, 2019

I have a dream that my four children will one day
Live in a nation
Where they will not be judged by the color of their skin,
But by the content of their character.”
This declaration of a broad vision for humanity was
Central to the dream that the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Articulated in his speech on August 28, 1963 at the March on Washington.
What would Dr. King say if he knew of current examples
 Of intractable hatred and racism?
We have heard about a Yale graduate student
Who happens to be black
Who was napping in a dormitory lounge
And accused of not belonging there by another student
Who called the police.
Then the graduate student was not believed by the police officers who confronted her
even when she took them into her own dorm room.
A current lawsuit by General Motors workers
At a plant in Toledo, Ohio
Cites the appearance of “Whites only” signs
Outside restrooms,
Nooses being hung in various places in the plant,
And one black supervisor being told
“Back in the day, you would have been buried
With a shovel.”
And there was the incident in late December
Of a black man staying
at a Doubletree Hotel in Portland, Oregon.
He was standing in the hotel lobby
Talking on the phone with his mother
When he was unexpectedly told
by a white security guard
that he was trespassing and
he was escorted out of the building.
It is an unfortunate truth that
Some people still have a problem
With difference.
An outward appearance
that some people see as “other”
Continues to instill fear that the person
Who is “different” poses a threat.  
After the shootings at Tree of Life Synagogue,
we know this all too well, but it was the victims
at the congregation that were seen as “different” and “dangerous.”
Perpetrators of acts of racism and violence
have no concern for the hurt they may cause.
All that matters is their perspective
That their targets don’t deserve human consideration. 
That runs counter to Dr. King’s dream.
In my reading of comments about the long-term impact
of the leadership of Dr. King,
One value that was often cited in the way he approached
the struggle for civil rights was empathy. 
If we know that someone is the victim
of hurt or prejudice,  
we need to feel it so we will do something
to make a change.  
In Dr. King’s vision,
Love is not reserved for just some people;
it is for everyone.
Justice is not reserved for only some people,
it is for everyone.
And the possibility of living a good life,
one of opportunity and even prosperity,
needs to encompass all people
So that the world can reap the benefits of true equality and understanding.
One of the great recent examples of empathy happened in the aftermath of the shootings at Tree of Life synagogue.
 The Rev. Eric S. C. Manning leads
Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the congregation where nine church members were shot to death on June 17, 2015 during a bible study class.   
Within a few days after the shooting in Pittsburgh,
Pastor Manning reached out to Rabbi Jeffrey Myers
of Tree of Life synagogue and told him he wanted to come to mourn with the community.  And so he did.
And in doing so, he demonstrated
The empathic impulse in humanity. 
We know that firsthand here at Temple Beth-El
 from the large crowd of local community members
Who attended our memorial service on October 28.
   The love, the concern, and the mutual support in the wake of both of those tragic events have overtaken fear and created deep human connections that were not there before.   People found a way  to reach out to each other, to feel each other’s pain, and to rejoice in the triumph of unity that can emerge when we extend hands and hearts in love and hope. 
  The Song at the Sea in the Torah reading for this Shabbat is a celebration, but one tinged with sadness.  The rabbis imagined the angels rejoicing in heaven at the deaths of the Egyptians in the Sea.   God rebuked the angels, saying, “My children are dying, and you sing praises?”  
   But the Israelites, down below, still rejoiced, because a God that believed in freedom for humanity had triumphed over an earthly ruler who saw himself as a god who perpetrated slavery and cruelty. 
    And it is still love, empathy, and acceptance that can lead us to become a united human family.
I remember
Being a member of my Temple junior choir
Participating in a city-wide faith community music festival in 1967
Which featured singers from Jewish and Christian congregations
From across the community,
Including at least one African-American church,
In Kansas City.
One of the songs we sang in the performance
Included these lyrics:
“Many the ways all of us pray to One God
Many the paths winding their way to One God
Brothers and sisters....there were no strangers
After the work was done
And your God and my God are One.”
That song by Dave Rotheray and Paul Heston
Offered a hopeful message
One that sought to promote interfaith understanding
And a vision that resonated with the dream
Of Martin Luther King, Jr.
We knew at that music festival 52 years ago
That our presence together
Might bring the world just a little closer to justice,
Acceptance and equality.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated about a year after that music festival. 
But the dream lived on then as it does now.   
Let us not forget what it feels like
to be the victims of hatred,
but let us also remember
What it feels like to rejoice and to join with others in celebration knowing that
freedom, justice and love will ultimately prevail. 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Invocation - Temple Beth-El Las Cruces Board meeting - January 17, 2019

Eternal God,

Inspiration to Moses and Aaron,

Liberator of a people,

Watchful companion along our centuries-long path, 

Join us as we move forward into the future. 

Guide us in our creativity and judgment

To consider the needs of our congregation 

And the greater community 

So that we will continue to learn from one another

And to teach each other

To care, 

To build, 

To speak from the heart,

To listen, 

To support,

To give,

To feel, 

To overcome fear,

To rejoice, 

To unite,

And to love.

May our combined energies

Enable us to realize our dreams

Of a community and a world

Where differences offer opportunities

To forge deeper understanding;

Where conflict gives way to cooperation;

And where we see people of all backgrounds 

As fellow travelers,

Walking together from generation to generation

Towards the light that will ultimately overtake

Any darkness that could keep us from truly seeing one another.   

As You, O God, reach out to us 

Every moment of our lives, 

May the open hands that we extend 

in friendship to our fellow human beings 

Be an expression of all that You want us to be 

Our Creator

Our Teacher

Our Hope.

And we say