Sunday, September 23, 2018

"Blessed Are the Peacemakers." A meditation for the Interfaith Prayers for Peace" at Littlefield Presbyterian Church.

Some of the leaders and participants at Interfaith Prayers for Peace at Littlefield Presbyterian Church, 2018.

"Blessed Are the Peacemakers"

Matthew 5:1-16

         The verses we just heard are from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.” We heard Jesus speaking what we call the Beatitudes:  "Blessed are the poor in spirit...  the mourners...  the meek... the merciful...   Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you....  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven."[1]
            Blessed are you who mourn. 
            For those of us who long for a better, more peaceful world, this is a distressing time. There are so many things to mourn.
            More than 400 children who were separated from their families at the southern border are still separated from their families.
            The mass shootings happen so often that we don’t even hear about most of them.
            People struggle to deal with the ways trauma from assault changed their lives, and the hashtag #Why I didn’t report is trending in social media.
            The list could go on and on…
            There are so many things to mourn.  Like poverty and injustice, in our communities, in our nation, and in the world.
            In the United States of America--one of the richest countries in the world. children remain the poorest age group. According to the Children’s Defense Fund, nearly one in five children--12.8 million in total-- were poor in 2017. Over 45 percent of these children lived in extreme poverty at less than half the poverty level.
            3 million children in the U.S. live in families surviving on $2 a day per person.[1]
            The federal poverty threshold is $12,140 for individuals and $25,100 for a family of four. One in seven people in the United States live below the federal poverty threshold. That’s 13.9% of the population, or 44.7 million. According to this federal threshold, a single adult making $12,141 is not poor, though they are considered “low income.”   The wealthiest 1 percent of American households own 40 percent of the country’s wealth, which is more than at any time in the past fifty years. [7]
            When we look around and see all the injustice and need, it can feel overwhelming and despairing.  But we don’t have to work alone.  I find myself mourning all this violence and need, and longing to do something. 
            So, what can we do? 
           We can begin by praying together and forging bonds of friendship and solidarity… getting to know one another better… opening our hearts and minds to one another… and finding ways to work together to change the world. 
            Sometimes, it’s a matter of seeing a need and working together to relieve suffering and let people know we care, like the time a group of interfaith friends gathered needed items for Syrian refugees and got together in somebody’s basement in this neighborhood and packed them for sending them.  People of different faiths work together with Project Dignity to feed desperately poor people in Detroit and address the needs of women and children through Zaman International.
            More than fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. declared in his famous speech “A Time to Break Silence” that, “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
            Last May, on the Monday after Mother’s Day, in our nation’s capital and in state capitals around the country, people who are committed to work for a fairer society gathered to launch the first phase of a new Poor People’s Campaign. This is an interfaith movement, made up of older people and younger people, Jews, Muslims, Christians, people of other faiths and people of goodwill who aren’t part of a religious community. It’s a movement that gives voice to people who are directly impacted by poverty and injustice, that brings people together in solidarity as we work together in a series of actions to try to change the conversation in our nation about systemic injustice.
            There’s hard work to be done.   But we can work together to make a difference.  There are values our faith traditions hold in common—values that have to do with love and justice and peace. 
            For all people of faith and goodwill, this is a time for us to find ways to come together and work for a better, more peaceful, merciful, and just world--for everyone.
            As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or perish together as fools."
            Our commitment to peace and justice and reconciliation, and our love for our own children, demands that we provide a better inheritance for them.” There’s hard work to be done.   But we can work together to make a difference.

             After worship, we invite you to stay for a time, to enjoy some refreshments and conversation.   We hope you’ll make a new friend today.  Talk with one another about your families—especially your children or grandchildren and about what kind of a world you want to leave for them.
            Talk about what teachings from our various faith traditions inspire and challenge you…and about what common ground you see in our various traditions. Talk about the people who inspire you and challenge you in your commitment.
            Let’s renew our commitment to change the world-- beginning today. 

Rev. Fran Hayes, Pastor
Littlefield Presbyterian Church
Dearborn, Michigan
September 23, 2018

[1] Child Poverty, at Children’s Defense Fund website:


[1] Child Poverty, at Children’s Defense Fund website:

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