Verse – what we are supposed to hate

wanting everyone to know
just how great we really are

or denying to ourselves
and to everybody else
that we have the skills and smarts
that could win 10,000 hearts

treating others as beneath
us or even inhuman

being irresponsible
for myself or for the world

worse is not caring at all
being dead before we fall
finally into our graves
death is god’s last enemy

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, May 2, 2015

 

Ennui

“I hate feelings. I hate them!” said the person who feels them so intensely.

The feelings we hate are the ones that drive us into the dark corners and the basements of the psyche. The only thing worse than being in the grip of sorrow or grief is to feel nothing, or fool oneself into believing that the feelings aren’t there.

Ennui – a listless weariness and boredom – describes this hell.

Like the writer of Ecclesiastes, I listen to all the shouting of our time and feel that I’ve been there before. I prefer not to feel the loss of belief in history as the inevitable upward bend of progress. Listening to the sounds of ignorant armies clashing by night is not good for my sanity. I prefer ennui to constant turmoil, and, in the midst of ennui, I have nothing to say of any worth. No great word of hope.

“All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
or the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again;
there is nothing new under the sun.”
-Ecclesiastes, 1:8-9.

In times like these I go through periods of great sadness and move into the protective shell of ennui. Then something like Odetta’s version of “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child” breaks through again to the feelings I hate. Is it sometimes good to hate?

Memorial Day and the soldier’s helmet

Japanese soldier's helmet

Japanese soldier’s helmet

Memorial Day once honored the fallen soldiers of the Civil War, both Union and Confederate soldiers. They called it “Decoration Day” when they laid wreathes and flowers on the graves of the dead soldiers.

When I learned this in elementary school, it struck me as more than a little strange. My father had served as a Chaplain on Saipan. My father was a good guy. The people he went to war against were not. How strange to honor soldiers who fought against each other, “heroes” all, killing each other, especially when one side was good and the other was evil. And then, on top of that it seemed to pay homage to something we were also taught to scorn: war itself. It was more than a little confusing.

Many years later, it’s a Monday morning. I’m a pastor. (The person in this story is since deceased.)

A 70-something year old ex-Marine calls the church office. He’s a big ma, what tough guy call “a man’s man,” a World War II Marine, 6’2”. 250 lbs, part of the invasion of Saipan in the South Pacific when he was 17.

“My wife’s out of town. Can you come over tonight for a drink?”

I’ve never been to their home. I’m guessing he wants to talk about his marriage.

He takes my coat. We sit down. He pours us each a Scotch.

“You know, your first couple of years here I didn’t come to church much. I didn’t like your preaching. I’m not one of these peace guys. But something made me keep coming back. I started to listen and I kept coming, and all this peace stuff and Jesus stuff started to get to me. It’s been a long time now. That’s why I called you. I hate the Japs! I know I’m not supposed to call ‘em ‘Japs’. I hate them! But I can’t hate them anymore.”

He gets up and walks over to the mantel above the huge stone fireplace.

“My wife has no idea what’s in this box. I’ve never told her. I can’t tell her. I don’t want it anymore. I’m asking you to take it. I can’t live with it anymore.”

He takes the box from the mantel, places it on the ottoman in front of me, and opens the locked box with a key. He is shaking now and crying.

“This poor bastard! I killed this [expletive] with my bear hands!”

His whole body shakes as, one by one, he removes the contents from the box –

a soldier’s helmet;
a lock of hair;
two eye teeth;
dog tags, and
a gun –

that had belonged to the Japanese soldier he killed in hand-to-hand combat on Saipan.

“All these years of hate. And this poor bastard was just doing the same thing I was. He was just doing his duty to his country. How will God ever forgive me? I just want this stuff out of my house. I want it out of my life! How will God ever forgive me? I can’t hate any more. I can’t.”

We stand in the middle of his living room. I hold him like a baby: a grown man – a “man’s man” – sobbing and shaking with guilt, sorrow, and grief.

I take the box and the contents home. I give the gun to a friend who’s a gun collector. I have no memory of what I did with the box or the artifacts of what remained of the Japanese soldier. Memory is like that. It was too personal. It was too hot.

_____________

So…today I observe Memorial Day by returning to the original sense of Memorial Day as a day to remember the fallen – ALL of them – but even more, to re-commit to ending the insanity of war itself. It’s a day when I remember the in-breaking of sacredness – three men in the living room – two live Americans and one Japanese – and pray for something better for us all.

Alt-Facts and the ‘Anti-Christ’

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Views from the Edge re-publishes this piece on Maundy Thursday, 2017. It first appeared here on March 24, 2010. Sadly, nothing much has changed. The U.S. was sucker-punched by the apocalyptic spirituality of the alt-right politics of Rush Limbaugh and Steve Bannon.

Something from the Christian tradition – the idea of ‘the Anti-Christ’ – is lifting its ugly head, a word and concept that could trigger unthinkable tragedy unless we clean up our civil discourse.

According to Harris Interactive Poll taken between March 1 and 8, “more than 20% believe [President Obama] was not born in the United States, that he is ‘the domestic enemy the U.S. Constitution speaks of,’ that he is racist and anti-American, and that he ‘wants to use an economic collapse or terrorist attack as an excuse to take dictatorial powers.’ Fully 20% think he is ‘doing many of the things that Hitler did,’ while 14% believe ‘he may be the anti-Christ’ and 13% think ‘he wants the terrorists to win.”

The poll reflects what we all know: our civic health as a nation is being poisoned by inflammatory rhetoric from both sides of the political aisle. This toxic disregard for truth lies behind the results of the Harris Poll. Trigger words like ‘socialist,’ ‘communist,’ ‘terrorist,’ ‘anti-American,’ and ‘the Anti-Christ’ and the allegation that America’s first black president is the nation’s chief domestic enemy take us beyond the McCarthyism of the ‘50s. This cocktail is lethal.

As a Christian pastor I rue the use of Christian scripture to stoke the fires of fear and hate. The Christian life – or spiritual life of any sort, for that matter – is a life of discernment about the powers that shape ordinary life. It is not blind to evil. But loud spirituality is an oxymoron. We need to be reminded that all the great religions hold some version of the essential tenet expressed in the First Letter of John. “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still” and “If any one says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.”

Labeling the President of the United States ‘the Anti-Christ” gives deranged minds a license to kill . . . in the name of the non-violent, crucified Jesus. If some deranged American patriot like the Marine who plotted to assassinate the President should succeed . . . God forbid! . . . the blood will be on the hands of all who remained silent when the hate speech was being poured into the public stream of consciousness. And if you claim to be a disciple of Jesus, get yourself to church Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to ground yourself again in the love that conquers hate and fear.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Maundy Thursday morning, Chaska, MN.

Can we get along?

NOTE: This personal reflection was written yesterday (Tuesday, Feb. 5) in advance of last night’s public dialogue on “The Epidemic of Gun Violence in America” that drew 138 people. Even arranging the program was fraught with difficulty.

Tonight a series of public dialogues on the causes and remedies of gun violence begins at 7:00 PM at the church I am privileged to serve in Chaska.

How do we have this conversation? Can we talk? Can we all get along?

Every word, every phrase, is a powder keg. All speech is suspect. We listen not with open ears to hear a different point of view. We approach each other with suspicion, reacting defensively or aggressively to any hint that the conversation might be prejudiced against one’s own point of view. Even a title is a land mine.

I love the U.S. Constitution. I also don’t like guns. My only experiences with guns have been negative. The assassinations of President Abraham Lincoln in the Booth Theater and JFK in Dallas; Martin Luther King, Jr. supporting the striking sanitation workers in Memphis; presidential candidate Senator Robert Kennedy. A gun has only one purpose: to shoot something or someone. It has other use. Violence is often committed with one’s own fist. But capacity to hurt or destroy does not define a hand. A foot may kick, but that’s not why we have feet. A baseball bat picked up in a moment of rage is a lethal weapon, but it is not by definition a weapon; its purpose is to hit a baseball within the rules of baseball. A car can become a lethal weapon in the hands of a car bomber, but its purpose is transportation, to get us from here to there and back.

The human capacity for violence is deep and ineradicable. It’s in our DNA. The story of Cain’s slaying of his brother Abel is not about the beginning of human history; it is one of the defining facts of human nature itself. As my tradition puts it in a Prayer of Confession, “We are prone to evil and slothful in good.”

My tendency toward evil is often the conviction that I am right. I need to be reminded that my experience with guns is not the same as it is for those who grew up on a farm or a ranch where guns serve the purpose of killing a wolf or coyote or of putting down an injured horse out of mercy. The experience in rural America is altogether different from the small town outside a major city in which I was raised, and it is different from urban centers by reason of low population density. My ownership of a gun on the farm is not a threat to the person next door in a tenement or in the housing development of the suburb. Guns in rural America serve a different purpose. And, it seems to me, the split and the suspicion regarding guns and violence in America is to a great extent defined by these two very different social experiences, demographics, and cultures.

Having spent the last two weeks trying to organize a series of respectful conversations in the wake of Newtown has taught me how difficult it is to have conversation. Fear of the other is rampant. “I won’t appear on the same program with him. He’s an extremist.” Or, “I don’t think I’ll come. I don’t like trouble.” Or, “You bet I’ll be there. We’re going to pack the house.”

But the gospel of Jesus which is the center of Christian faith calls us to live by the Spirit of the Living God, not by fear or suspicion. Christ himself was the human “other” – the one on whom every side projected its hatred of the other side – and ultimately the representative of the “Wholly Other” who is other to us all.

“Whoever says, ‘I love God’ and hates his brother/sister,” is a liar; for whoever does not love his brother/sister whom he has seen,  cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that those who love God should love their brother also.” (First Letter of John 4:20-212).

I also find wisdom in the organizing principles of my religious tradition. The Preliminary Principles of Church Order (adopted in 1789) gives some advice for how to conduct ourselves when we strenuously disagree. They are called “preliminary” because they are the core principles for how we believe we are called to interact as the children of God. We believe

…” that there are truths and forms with respect to which people of good character and principles may differ. In all these it is the duty both of private Christians and societies to exercise mutual forbearance toward each other.”

“Preliminary Principles of Church Order (1789 at the organizing of the Presbyterian Church USA).

I’m trying my best to do my duty. Can the Pastor with strong personal views also serve as the Moderator? Can I promote the duty to exercise mutual forbearance toward each other?  Can we talk? Tonight how will we answer Rodney King’s haunting question: “Can’t we all just get along?”  Lord, take my hand and lead us on to toward  the light.

The Story of Dick and Dorothy…and Lee

His name was Lee.  He was a quiet man.

He was friendly enough – just not terribly outgoing.

He wasn’t the sort of person who would call attention to himself.

Lee lived across the street from Dick and Dorothy.

Like Lee, Dick and Dorothy didn’t socialize much – not at all in fact.

And their house was quiet – their house was really quiet!  You see, Dick and Dorothy hadn’t spoken to one another in years.  Their only child, Susan, was grown and gone.  Back in those days, divorces were extremely rare.  You lived together “till death do us part” – even if the differences were irreconcilable and the hostile silence was deafening.

Dick and Dorothy had a dog named Trixie.  It was obvious if Trixie needed water.  What was not so obvious was whether or not Trixie had been fed.  So Dick and Dorothy had silently devised a system to clarify this matter without having to speak to one another.   If you fed Trixie, you placed her bowlful of food in a different location in the kitchen than it had been previously.

Dick and Dorothy and Trixie may have invented the progressive dinner.

During January of 1967, there was a terrible blizzard.  Every weekday Dick commuted to and from Chicago – 26 miles one way – and by the time he got home at 6:00 p.m., his driveway was filled with almost two feet of drifted snow!  The car never made it up the gentle grade to the garage.  In fact, it barely made it into the driveway.  The rear end of the car was a traffic hazard in the street.

Lee was watching from his cozy living room as Dick trudged to his garage to fetch a snow shovel.  So Lee did what any good neighbor would do.  He bundled up, grabbed his own shovel, and headed across the street to help his friend.  The wind was howling and the snow was still coming down.

It took them 45 minutes to get Dick’s car to the garage.  After thanking Lee profusely for his help, Dick invited his neighbor into the kitchen to get warm over a cup of coffee.  Dorothy joined them at the kitchen table.

At first, the conversation was awkward.  Lee knew the dynamics of this dysfunctional household.  Dick made a comment.  Lee replied.  Dorothy made a comment.  Lee replied.  This went on for a while.

But then – something happened.  Something changed.  Dorothy made a comment.  And DICK REPLIED.  Then, DOROTHY REPLIED.  Lee had the good sense – or perhaps the divine wisdom – to keep his mouth shut and just wait and see what would happen next.

That was the beginning for Dick and Dorothy.  They began to talk.  They started communicating with one another in other ways than by moving the dog dish.  The healing began. The relationship was renewed.

Lee was the catalyst.  Where there had been hatred – Lee sowed the seed of love.

Lee wasn’t an outspoken champion of peace and justice and reconciliation.

Maybe Lee was just at the right place at the right time.

Was Lee an angel?  Dick and Dorothy’s daughter, Susan, will tell you he was.

I think he was too.  I know I’m proud of him.  Lee was my father.

– Harry Lee Strong, Pastor, United Church of the San Juans in Ridgeway, CO, January 3, 2013. Harry is a dear friend and former classmate, McCormick Theological Seminary Class of ’67. Like frequent contributor Steve Shoemaker, Harry is one of six former classmates who gather annually for a week of fellowship and reflection.

Of Tide Pools and the Ocean

“Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates, she speaks:

‘How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?’” (Proverbs 1:20-22)

We come here this morning in mourning, seeking light in the midst of a great darkness created by religious hatred.

Listening to and watching the news from the Middle East and the viral videos that call the founder of Islam “Mo” is deeply disturbing. Once again, religious fanaticism betrays its claim to bear witness to the One who remains shrouded in mystery. The fires that were set by a flame-throwing video raise the question “Will religious fanaticism prevail?

“There are only kinds of religion: one burns, the other learns.”

Those words were spoken from this pulpit two years ago. They came not from the preacher. They came from Ghafar Lackanwal, a Muslim Afghani-American, who came at our invitation after the Christian pastor in Florida threatened to burn the Quran. Ghafar accepted our invitation. He opened his Quran, read from his Book, and brought greetings peace to this congregation.

The two kinds of religion are not Christianity and Islam, or Islam and Judaism. The two kinds of religion are intransigent fundamentalism, on the one hand, and the humble search for wisdom’s guidance, on the other.

Ninety years ago a great preacher lost his pulpit for asking the question “Shall the fundamentalist win?” Harry Emerson Fosdick asked the question in 1922. He was subsequently removed from his pulpit, but he John D. Rockefeller built a church called “Riverside” where Fosdick would become one of America’s best known and most loved preachers. Some called him “America’s counselor” because of the radio broadcasts of his sermon across the country. “Shall the fundamentalists win?” By fundamentalists he meant those who claim absolute truth, denying all other claims to truth or wisdom.

Ninety years later I’m asking myself the same question.

Like Fosdick, I spent my boyhood summers on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The ocean became my teacher. It became, you might say, my enduring metaphor for God.

As a boy I would spend hours lost in the magnificence of the tide pools that dotted the coast of Rockport, Massachusetts.  Wading in the tide pools is still my favorite thing to do. I did it again last month with my grandchildren at Coquille Point on the Pacific Coast of Oregon.

The tide pools are filled with fresh sea water. They are the temporary homes that give shelter to the starfish, crabs, periwinkles, sea anemones left there for a few hours at low tide. They are not the ocean itself.

Perhaps religion is like a tide pool, a small pool of ocean water that tastes the Ocean while pointing to the vast mystery of the Ocean on which its life depends. The tide pools hold a few drops of a vast sea. They are filled with the Ocean, but they are not the Ocean. Their health depends on the eternal rolling of the tides to refresh them.

Wading in a tide pools, it’s easy to lose track of time.

But there are other tide pools far back from the water’s edge, created by the unusually high waves of a storm. Unreachable by the normal daily tides that would refresh them, they are cut off from the Ocean that gave them life. They are without oxygen, yellow, and covered by green-yellow slime. Their original beauty has left them to the flies.

Perhaps the human soul or, a religious tradition, is like a tide pool.

“Since when has the Pacific Ocean been poured into a pint cup,” asked Fosdick, “that the God of this vast universe should be fully comprehended in human words?” One tea-cup will reveal the quality of the whole ocean. Yet it will not reveal all the truth about the ocean.

“When one considers the reach of the sea over the rim of the world; thinks of the depths that no eye can pierce…, one dare not try to put these into a tea-cup. So God sweeps out beyond the reach of human symbols. At once so true and so inadequate are all our words….”

As a Christian pastor, I can only take responsibility from within the tide pool of my Christian faith tradition.  Muslim Imams like Minneapolis Imam Makram El-Amin, are doing the same in theirs.  “We will stand,” he said, “in unity against these attacks and the appalling killing of the diplomat who was there on a peaceful mission” (“State Muslims denounce attacks,” Star Tribune, Sept. 13). Every Christian pastor is called to do the same in the wake of the viral film that poisoned the Ocean from a yellow tide pool in Florida.

This morning I ask you to listen to three prayers. Ask yourself who spoke them. A rabbi, an imam, or a Christian pastor.

1) O God Source of Life, Creator of Peace. . .
Help Your children, anguished and confused,
To understand the futility of hatred and violence
And grant them the ability to stretch across
Political, religious and national boundaries
So they may confront horror and fear
By continuing together
In the search for justice, peace and truth. . . .
With every fiber of our being
We beg You, O God,
To help us not to fail nor falter. Amen

2) In the Name of God, The Everlasting Merciful, The Cherisher
Of the Worlds and Worthy of all Praise,
Our Lord: You have created us from a single (pair) of a male
And a female and made us into Nations and Tribes that we may
Know one another (not that we may despise each other) so
Help us to love each other and take the hatred and anger from our
Hearts so that the People of The Book (Christians, Jews and Muslims)
In the Middle East may live in Peace and Justice. Amen

3)Two peoples, one land,
Three faiths, one root,
One earth, one mother,
One sky, one beginning, one future, one destiny,
One broken heart,
One God.
We pray to You:
Grant us a vision of unity.
May we see the many in the one and the one in the many.
May you, Life of All the Worlds, Source of All Amazing Differences
Help us to see clearly.
Guide us gently and firmly toward each other,
Toward peace. Amen.

The first prayer comes from the lips of Rabbi H. Rolando Matalon from Congregation B’nai Jeshurunin  New York, NY. The second comes from Dawud Ahmad Assad of the Council of Mosques here in the USA. The third comes from the National Council of Churches of Christ.

Each of them is humble. Each of them looks to the larger Ocean to refresh us. Each begs for wisdom to guide us. Each honors the God and Creator of all.

There are only two kinds of religion. One burns; the other learns. “How long will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?”

When any religious tradition mistakes its pool for the Ocean itself, denying the existence of neighboring tide pools along the edges of Eternity, fundamentalism wins. Things turn yellow and nasty. For those of us who are disciples of Jesus, there is only one enduring question by which our tide pool can remain open and fresh: “How shall we love the Lord our God with all our mind, hearts, soul, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves?”

Only the daily refreshment of the tides can keep the tide pools fresh. Otherwise we watch the news, asking Fosdick’s old question, and hope and pray that fundamentalism and fanaticism will not win.

– Sermon preached by Gordon C. Stewart at Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church, Chaska, MN Sunday, September 16, 2012.

Alaskan tide pool photo by Susan Linz

Take Away our Numbness – A Memorial to Sydney Mahkuk

These words were spoken on the sidewalk where 12-year-old Sydney Mahkuk died. Community leaders and Sydney’s family asked me to bring some kind of meaning and hope to the sidewalk where Sydney had been dumped from a car by the side of the funeral home.

November 4, 2005

Gordon C. Stewart

Executive Director, Legal Rights Center, Inc.

Once upon a time a proud people lived on this land. They called themselves Ojibwe, Anishinabe, Dakota, Lakota, and Winnebago. Occasionally a Menominee would visit.  They lived close to the land.  They hunted. They fished. They gave thanks to the Great Spirit for every day.  They saw themselves as part of nature. They rose with the sun. When the sun went down, they gathered in a circle by the light of the campfire.  By the light of the campfire, they listened to the elders, whose stories broke the silence to told the children who they were.  The children went to bed in safety.

Shabbona, Potawatami Chief, c. 1775 – 1859

They were people of great dignity.  Their ways were good ways.  They respected the land. They respected each other.  They honored their elders.  They cared for the children.  They trained their youth to become adults.  They died with dignity.  They were buried with honor. Earth was their mother. Gitchi Manitu, Wakan Tonka, the Great Spirit, was the common Grandfather of them all.

Then something terrible happened.  A plague came across their land.  It took their land.  It stole their culture.  It laughed at their spiritual practices.  It called them names.  It tore down their tepees, their longhouses and their sweat lodges.  And in their places the plague built big buildings – tall buildings, arrogant buildings, skyscrapers, they called them, that invaded the sky, turning the land into something it is not.  The Ojibwe and Dakota who lived here no longer rose with the sun.  They no longer gathered around the campfire.  They no longer heard the stories of who they were.  They knew only what the white plague had taught them – that unless they joined the plague, they were nobody, and that if they challenged it, they would lose.  They would die.

And so they lived in grief.  A sorrow too hard to bear.  A loss too great to carry.  And the plague offered them relief to numb the pain – firewater that would make them happy in spite of their despair.  Drugs to drive away the memories of who they were.  Escapes to make them numb.  To numb the pain.  Opiates to freeze their tongues.

The elders no longer acted like elders.  The parents were numb with grief.  There were no aunts.  No uncles. No cousins.  No grandparents.  Nobody dared to be a neighbor.  The children were left with no campfire at night – no community to tell them the stories of who they were and who they were not – and so the children and the youth drifted out into the night in search of themselves.  Locked in lonely prisons of confusion, the youth no longer knew Mother Earth as their Mother; they no longer knew how to give thanks to the Great Spirit for the day.  They no longer went to bed with the sun.  They wandered the night in search of the community they had lost and never known.  And the gangs and the drugs and the alcohol offered them the promises of a better life that was the kiss of death.  Ecstasy was no longer a way of life – it was a pill that would make them higher than the skyscrapers that ruined the once humble landscape.  And sometimes the alcohol and the drugs and the gangs that had promised to numb their pain took their lives and they were found in the morning as the sun came up.  They were found by strangers.

Sydney Mahkuk, RIP

Then one day a girl named Sidney, a 12 year-old Menominee-Portawatami, was found beside a funeral home on Columbus Avenue. How she got there nobody knew.  How she died, nobody knew.  But everybody knew why.

The community had unravelled.  It had become dry bones in the valley.

But on that day that the people gathered on the sidewalk on Columbus Avenue to mourn her death, there was a sound from heaven – a rattling, the sound of dry bones coming together, a resurrection of the once proud community. And as a result Sidney Mahkuk’s tragic death the community came together as it had not come together since the plague had begun.

On the day they gathered on Columbus Avenue – a street named after the European explorer who had not discovered their land – on that day, the community woke from its sleep.  It came together – Ojibwe, Dakota, Menominee, Potawatami, Lakota, African-American, Somali, Hispanic, Hmong …and, yes, even the descendants of Columbus.  And on that day, because of a little girl’s unexplained death, they stood together arm in arm and said “Enough” to the plague.  “Enough” to numbness.  They said, “No more. No more. No more death on Columbus’s Avenue.”  And it was more than words.  They looked up at the sun again and really saw it…as if for the first time. They looked down at Mother Earth and saw it, as if for the first time.  And they gave thanks.  Then they looked at each other and they said, “We are a proud people.  We will take back this land.  We will be the people who honor our elders.  We will be the people who support the parents and care for the children.  We will be the people who guide the youth.  We will be a people of hope, not despair.  We will be a people of love, not hate.  We are all Menominee-Potawatami. We are all grandchildren of one Grandfather.  We are the people who care for each other.  We are the people who refuse to go numb.  We are the people who will teach the children of Columbus – starting right here, right now… on Columbus Avenue – how to live in a good way with Mother Earth, in a good way with Iraq, in a good way with the rivers and the sky, the ozone and the sun.  We are the people whose spirituality will help to cure the cancer of the spiritual and economic plague that has left our people in despair.

From that day on, November 4, 2005 at twelve noon, 12 year-old Sidney Mahkuk – our daughter, our granddaughter, our little sister, our friend, our neighbor – would be forever remembered as the one whose deadly silence on this sidewalk spoke so loudly that we could not stay numb.  And we took the city back and brought it back to life.

Merciful God – Wakon Tonka, Gitchi Manitu, God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Jehovah, Allah, Grandfather, Great Spirit who breathes life into all things and receives all life at the end – Your’s is the air we breath, the land on which we walk.  Assure us that your love is stronger than every power to divide or hurt us.  Receive your child Sidney into your eternal care.  Wrap your arms around Glenda, around Sidney’s brothers and sisters, around all the defenseless children of the night, around all of us who mourn their plight and mourn Sidney’s death.  Re-kindle the light of faith and hope. Take from our souls the plague of hate, self-hatred and despair.  Take away the numbness and the apathy.  Make us a people of healing.  A humble and quiet people, but a proud people of love and spiritual strength. A people who are not afraid to feel the pain, who really feel the loss, who feel our feelings and do not fear them.  A people who dare to believe that every tear that falls from our eyes flows into the common stream of human suffering that leads into the ocean of community restored.  A people secure in the knowledge of your love.  Amen.