Thursday, March 16, 2017

Maine State House Benediction: March 16, 2017

Dear God, please bless this gathering of legislators, may you protect them and guide them in your ways.  May your teachings be close to their hearts, and may they be inspired to follow them. We stand in this moment between the Jewish festivals of Purim and Passover, two celebrations of redemption. Two festivals that celebrate the survival of a religious minority facing persecution and unjust treatment by their fellow citizens. Two holidays that remind us of the special moral obligations of those who know the pain of narrow places and exclusion. Two holidays that make us recognize the privilege of receiving revelation from a God who places upon us the highest moral standards to protect the interests of the most vulnerable. At this moment let us recall two verses from the Biblical tradition that speak to our better angels and our communal responsibility to speak for the voiceless.  

We learn in Deuteronomy 10:18-19:

 עֹשֶׂה מִשְׁפַּט יָתוֹם, וְאַלְמָנָה; וְאֹהֵב גֵּר, לָתֶת לוֹ לֶחֶם וְשִׂמְלָה.
18 God executes justice for the orphan and widow, and loves the foreigner, in giving him food and clothing.
יט  וַאֲהַבְתֶּם, אֶת-הַגֵּר:  כִּי-גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם, בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.
19 Love the foreigner; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

And God reminds us again in the Book of Zachariah, Chapter 10:9-10:

 כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת, לֵאמֹר:  מִשְׁפַּט אֱמֶת, שְׁפֹטוּ, וְחֶסֶד וְרַחֲמִים, עֲשׂוּ אִישׁ אֶת-אָחִיו.
9 'Thus God said: Execute true judgment, and show mercy and compassion every man to his brother;
י  וְאַלְמָנָה וְיָתוֹם גֵּר וְעָנִי, אַל-תַּעֲשֹׁקוּ; וְרָעַת אִישׁ אָחִיו, אַל-תַּחְשְׁבוּ בִּלְבַבְכֶם.
10 and do not oppress the widow, nor the fatherless, the foreigner, nor the poor; and let none of you devise evil against his brother in your heart.

Our challenge and privilege in this world is to be agents of love and justice in every sphere we inhabit.  May this assembly use its voice, its power, and the treasures of the people of Maine to alleviate pain, heal the sick, feed the hungry, and welcome the foreigner. America is a country blessed with a unique mission in this world, showing fidelity to our civic traditions and drawing inspiration from our faiths. May we all rise to the occasion on this day, being vessels of holiness, justice, and compassion for the people of Maine and our great country.

And let us say, Amen.