Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. - 1 Corinthians 1:31
All of our readings this Sunday share a common theme - humility. In a very famous passage from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proclaims that the ones who are blessed are not the ones who have the most money, power and success, but the poor in spirit, the meek, those who mourn, those who are hungry, those who are merciful and make peace, those who are pure in heart - as well as those who are persecuted for being these things. Paul writes to the Corinthians that only in our weakness can we find strength. And we also will hear Micah's famous words this Sunday: what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
In the spirit of these readings, I'd like to share a letter I wrote on Inauguration day to the editor of the Sentinel.
On inauguration day, I found myself pondering what it means to be a great nation. In our current political landscape, greatness is being described as having something to do with power, wealth and personal license. However, I believe that a society is measured not by how wealthy our corporations are, or by how comfortable those who are better-off can become, or by having the personal license to act however one may wish. I believe our greatness is most accurately measured by how we choose to collectively support and care for our weakest and most needy citizens. To me, the true measures of our greatness are found in our compassion, generosity and mutual care.
Becoming greater at these things as a nation is something we can actually measure statistically. I know there are many different views about how to best address the issue of poverty and I do not pretend to know who is right or has the right plan. But indications of true greatness can be quantified among us when:
- the incidence of addiction decreases
- the infant mortality rate gets lower
- more children in every state and city have an equal opportunity to get a strong public education
- the growing disparity between ‘haves' and 'haves-not’ begins to narrow
- incidents of violence against women decrease
- fewer LGTBQ youth commit suicide
- gun violence decreases
- clean and renewable energy research and production increases
- fewer people without means are being incarcerated on minor charges
- safe haven and tangible support is offered to more of the worlds desperate refugees
- more rather than fewer people have access to the medical care they need instead of forgoing it due to a lack of funds
- fewer elderly citizens are forced to choose between eating, heating their home or buying their medicine in any given month
If true greatness is measured, as I believe it is, by our love and compassion for one another, these are just a few of many points of data that we can use to gauge our collective progress toward increasing our greatness as a nation. Such indicators not only show when real suffering is or is not being alleviated, but also calibrate something that is quite different than a fleeting feeling of pride in patriotism. They indicate how much we respect the greatness - and wisdom - of something much bigger than ourselves in this present moment.
Our most respected leaders, of either party, have been the ones who inspire us to raise up those who are downtrodden and to seek liberty and justice for all. These leaders wove the threads of tolerance, understanding and esteem for the common good into our societal fabric. We look back and most admire those leaders who have given us a commendable model to follow as they inspired us each to access our higher selves by modeling the respectful use of words, the courage to make compassionate choices and the call to step up for those in need. We cannot underestimate the power of a truly great role model.
So my prayers are with President Trump and his administration, and with all our national and local elected representatives, as they work to strengthen the fabric of our common life, enacting legislation that fosters true greatness in measurable ways. My prayers are also with all those leaders in our own great city and beyond who already work hard to alleviate the suffering of those who are poor, homeless, hungry, ill, abused, addicted, oppressed or in prison. And my prayers are with each of us as citizens. I pray that during these days of strong rhetoric and political partisanship, we will arise as caring and compassionate leaders, taking active part in our local communities to make our great country even greater.
The Rev. Elsa Worth, Rector
St. James Episcopal Church