At the Heartbeat of Justice

Reading

Kindness
by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
You must lose things,
Feel the future dissolve in a moment
Like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
What you counted and carefully saved,
All this must go so you know
How desolate the landscape can be
Between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
Thinking the bus will never stop,
The passengers eating grain and chicken
Will stare out the window forever./p>

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
You must travel where the man
Lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
How he too was someone
Who journeyed through the night with plans
And the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
Catches the thread of all sorrows
And you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
Only kindness that ties your shoes
And sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
Only kindness that raises its head
From the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
And then goes with you everywhere
Like a shadow or a friend.

Sermon

“At the Heartbeat of Justice”
Elaine Beth Peresluha

The current Israeli–Palestinian conflict is long- and complicated even for the most scholarly historian- It is rooted in tribal history, Biblical stories of rivalries and now, major nationalist movements of Jews and Arabs. Both Arabs and Jews are trying to secure sovereignty, a homeland for their people in the Middle East. The conflict is wide-ranging- complicated, historic, screaming out for mutual recognition, borders, security, water rights, control of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, Palestinian freedom of movement, and resolution to the horrific refugee realities.

Even if there was agreement on a two-state solution, creating an independent Palestinian state alongside an independent Jewish state a complicated range of disagreement still exists on the details over the shape of any final agreement and each side mistrust the other to uphold even the most basic commitments.. People are dying- children come of age, suffering, civilians, women, children- precious resources, futures are continually being destroyed on both sides.

Its complicated- the disclaimer on the Wikipedia says it all-

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We live in a precarious and vulnerable time... How do we know what to believe in? What’s right- what’s wrong- in an age of so much grey, black and white is comforting- safe- and like much that is comforting- it is an illusion. When to hold on- when to let go of? These times, like all times, requiring a search for truth, open minds, and strong hearts inspired to sustain hope.

Where do we begin? Begin with your own heart- your own mind- perhaps one other- Listen- try to remember- have you perhaps known a moment?

When was it?
The moment.
When you first tasted torment
Unknown, unanticipated
Terror.
The moment the world lost its precious safety.

Was it the voice of the bully?
The taunts and hands that ripped
The white shirt and the playground’s innocence
From your body?

For the bully
It was the hand
Launched with vile words
That laid its anger across his face
Destroying wonder
Making love twisted.

It’s different
For you
For me
But we all have one.
A moment.

Before you know what kindness really is
You must lose things,
Feel the future dissolve in a moment
Like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
What you counted and carefully saved,
All this must go so you know
How desolate the landscape can be

A return to kindness- to safety is what the world seeks- yet the pain is so old- hearts so scarred- we have lost our way back- and the first steps must be made, blind, with faith, not certainty. A faith that is an active, personal investment in a truth that offers no tangible proof of its existence. Faith is an acceptance that something other than our sentient experience of reality, from our heads, from a book or from the balance on our bank statement, has validity.

When we are faced with uncertainty and the fear and anxiety it can create, we have two fundamental choices- to hold on to what we know and try to find certainty there- or to let go, believing something new will be discovered. Both choices have consequences- risks- and the truth is we need both. We just have to be wise when choosing what it is we hold on to- and what it is we let go of.

We need to hold on to what we believe in- the human potential for good, personal, spiritual, and institutional growth. We need to let go of hatred, judment, old hurts and fear even though we may not thoroughly understand where that letting go will bring us. Human beings have difficulty contemplating integrating a new idea or orientation without believing there is something to be gained.

Let go or let go when it inspires generosity- compassion and courage.
Let go when holding on fills you with mistrust, hoarding and hate.
To know- we must listen, be soft- be open

Gunilla Norris wrote:

We are here seeking that crystalline clarity- that permission to notice- One day we might get it- for one shining moment we have clarity- and everything seems unimportant- doubt disappear and we know, we can feel that everything is exactly as it should be and we are no longer afraid.

In that one moment we have not need to defend or argue someone else’s understanding of Truth- we do not feel included, excluded, right or wrong

We know.

It does not matter which god is in which heaven
There is room in our humanity for it all…

Whatever word is spoken
Whatever note is sung.
We belong, we can believe.

We are each Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Sarah and Hagar- we carry within us the dessert, the the Crusades, the Holocaust, the heart of every refuges. We are Muslims, Christians Jews, more and less. The world did not arrive at this moment, with or without any of us, without the genes of our fathers, the womb of our mothers or their stories. We are no less, no more than the best and the worst than the millions of eons, miles, and moments the universe has contributed, danced, and delivered.

Perhaps, as Rilke supposed:

Perhaps all of the dragons of our lives are princesses
Who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.
Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being
something helpless that wants help from us.

Before we know what kindness really is
We must lose things,
Feel the future dissolve in a moment
Like salt in a weakened broth.
What we held in our hands,
What we counted and carefully saved,
All this must go so we know
How desolate the landscape can be

Kindness- trust comes from knowing - here, in the heartbeat of justice- that we are each victim and bully- each slapped- thrashing- blindly to secure freedom- safety from hurt- from annihilation. And if once, we could open eyes to the other and see, truly see the pain, the fear, the suffering that must exist to motivate such violence- then- and only then do we have a chance to return to love’s first light.

In acceptance, ownership of all the eternal and universal connections lies the possibility of transformation. All the world’s people deserve a home, a lemon tree and a garden. We are each the chosen ones- deserving of the Promised Land.

We have always known this. We have always had our oneness, even in our story of separateness.

It takes courage- it takes determination- it takes listening, respect, responsibility and it will take each one of us to change the world- to right the wrongs- to undo an eternity of moments.

All of the stories- all of words of wisdom are in our own hearts, beating out the rhythm of kindness compassion and the truth of justice. The principles of right action are ours- and always have been- we only need to remember and reclaim them.

We have everything we need- and the possibility of a new song is waiting- now- for us to sing.