“To hear some people tell it, the whole sum and substance of Christianity is to oppose gay marriage and abortion, a terrible and misguided shrinking of our faith, and yet that seems to be the dominant message today. . . . As our body politic fractures, as news media give screaming headlines to all kinds of superficial nonsense, as fears and insecurities are exploited and as racism and bigotry become normalized, we need each other. Our calling as Christians is to DO what Jesus says we must do, today. As the writer once said: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been wanted, but rarely tried.” (G.K. Chesterton.)” Excerpts from the homily by Fr. David Gierlach, Rector, St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church.
Today, at the 9.am. celebration of the Holy Eucharist at St. Elizabeth’s, a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural treasure in the Palama neighborhood of Honolulu, worshippers from the church’s immediate inner city environs and others from suburbs further away, gathered to join others in faith centers across the nation to call for a moral revolution. With one voice they prayed for a championing of love, justice, and mercy in the public square:
Clutching photos of departed loved ones, the children gather at the altar as they prepare to march through the church, singing their determination to be numbered among the saints.
Leader: We have heard the prophet’s call to repair the breach and we know our Constitution’s goal of a more perfect union.
People: We reach back to our sacred texts that affirm life, love, and justice. “This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood.” (Jeremiah 22:3)
Leader: We affirm the prophets and proclaim, “Doom to you who legislate evil, who make lawsthat make misery for the poor, that rob my destitute people of dignity, exploiting defenseless
widows, taking advantage of homeless children.” (Isaiah 10:1-2)
People: We hear the cries of the people from the New Testament, “All the workers you’ve exploited and cheated cry out for judgment. The groans of the workers you used and abused are a roar in the ears of God.” (James 5:4)
Leader: We uphold dignity and respect for all from the Qu’ran, “The believers, both men and women, are responsible for one another: all enjoin the doing of what is right, and forbid the
doing of what is wrong” (Qu’ran 9:71)
People: And we will not rest in our quest for freedom until it comes as is affirmed in the Bhagavad Gita, “For the protection of the virtuous, for the extirpation of the evil-doers, and for establishing Dharma, righteousness, on a firm footing, I am born from age to age.” (Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4: 7-8)
Leader: We believe this to be true: All people have inherent rights, and no one can take them away.
People: We have the right to life, to liberty and to the pursuit of happiness.
Leader: We believe that the power of our governments derives from us, the people
People: For the purpose of providing for the general welfare and protecting our human rights.
Sikita Fine, a member of the congregation at St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church, reads the first lesson from Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18, in Tongan. While most of the service was in English, the use of Cantonese and Ilokano as well as Tongan at various points reflected the diversity of this prayer community.
Leader: We believe in the values of democracy we were taught, so we cannot accept our democracy’s feeble state.
People: We cannot accept voter suppression and intimidation that target people of color and the poor.
Leader: We cannot accept demagoguery and fear-mongering that demonize and divide.
People: we cannot accept that 45 million are poor in the richest country in history, or that 1 in 5 children are food insecure.
Leader: We cannot accept wages that don’t provide for a decent life, or the suppression of workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively.
People: We cannot accept segregation and inequality in our public schools, or the attempts to privatize and profit-ize them.
Leader: We cannot accept that 29 million Americans don’t have health insurance, including more than 4 million denied Medicaid expansion by their state.
And to speed them on their way, Fr. Gierlach used this Franciscan blessing in dismissing the congregation:
May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.
May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.