I was honored and humbled to be Ordained into the Unitarian Universalist Ministry at the First UU Society of San Francisco, last Saturday. Below is the benediction I offered at the close of the ceremony.
Offered at the Ordination of Michael Walker on May 8, 2010
Today, as the song says, we pray for all that is our life... because we are called... to build the common good. I take these words personally, and I hope that you do, as well. Here, at the end of this service and the beginning of my ministry, I do pray for the good work that my ministry will accomplish. But I also pray for you: that you will take the mission in your heart and the vision in your mind out into the world, and share it with all whom you are able to share it. I pray for all you children of God, today and everyday, for as long as I have breath.
A couple thousand years ago, a Rabbi who some have called the Son of Man once asked his followers, “Who is it that they say I am?” About a hundred years later, another teacher called Saul changed his name to Paul, and changed the Son of Man into the Son of God, and said, “There can be only One.” However, I have always believed that each and every being is a child of our Mother-Father God. This means every person, every creature, every plant and every rock, and all beings that may exist, but that we cannot see. There is room in the holy mystery for all things under the sun to have a cherished place. Let us pray for all these children of God, today and everyday, for as long as we have breath.
And, if you believe as I do that all people are children of God, then you know that there is no such thing as an illegal human being. Life takes each of us on a journey, and one always hopes that we find the means on each of our journeys to make our lives, and the lives of those we love, something better. Some people’s journeys take them away from places of utter poverty, drought and famine, or away from oppressive governments. These people work hard to improve their lives, and their children’s chances of succeeding in life. Ours is a nation in dis-ease – some among us are uncomfortable – not at ease – in their own lives, and take their insecurities out on those among us who are more vulnerable themselves. Ours is a nation where we claim to have a great dream – the American dream – where someone can come and work hard to make it in life. And then, we realize that we are also a nation where we can make laws that profile and victimize people based on the color of their skin. Laws that can lock-up citizens, as well as undocumented workers, because they are not white. Let us pray for all these children of God, today and everyday, for as long as we have breath.
When I walk out into the wild places, I often see the Holy, all around. John Muir once spoke of vast cathedrals, with vaults covered in stars, and the walls being the great redwoods or the giant rocks of Yosemite. It is in places such as these where it is easiest to hear that ‘still, small voice’... It is at places like the beach that we truly appreciate how small we are, and how connected we are to every other place in the world. It is in the beauty of the earth – shining with the spirit of life – that I came to find our Mother-Father God. To care for the wild places, to ensure their continuing existence for all generations, is part of our sacred work. To protect those species that are endangered by our own human greed, or by our pollution, or by our ineptitude, this is also part of our sacred work. Let us pray for all these children of God, today and everyday, for as long as we have breath.
I have been called upon several times to preach about what some of us call the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. That principle speaks to ecology, but it is more than that. It also speaks to human relations and how we depend upon each other more than we know. Things that happen in every place affect things that happen in all other places. What happens in Arizona, or Iraq, or Knoxville, or Darfur, or New Orleans, or any other place, does affect us all. What happens to one culture affects all cultures. What happens when our factories pump pollutants into the atmosphere affects people – and all other life – around the world. We are interdependent... Having said that, I hasten to add, that this can have a positive effect, as well. When states de-criminalize gay people for loving whom they love, then society benefits. When our uniformed services went to Grenada, or Indonesia, or New Orleans, to help rebuild after oppressive regimes are overthrown or natural disasters have struck – when they went to lend aid, our world was made just a little bit better. When people of faith, from many churches, cooperate to create winter shelters for those who are currently without a home, all society benefits. I see humanity in this way: we are all one, one humanity – and among us, it is the people of faith – many faiths – who will lead us towards healing. Let us pray for all these children of God, today and everyday, for as long as we have breath.
I call attention to people suffering from oppressive governments, and so I pray for human rights and peace. Many UUs are surprised to learn that one of their own, such as me, could be a veteran of our uniformed services. As such, I still pray for Shalom, that deep peace that does not come at the pointy end of a spear. It is not the olive branch, tied to a M-16 assault rifle, thinking the olive branch will hide the rifle. Peace is what comes from accepting each other’s differences and celebrating diversity as a natural phenomenon of the human existence, rather than fighting over the differences and squashing diversity. I do not think that humanity will easily acquiesce to letting others live and believe as they wish, but I will pray for it all the same. Recognizing the uniqueness in every person, and every culture, is a cornerstone of faith – and we are called upon to live our faith out loud, for all to hear. The pundits (those who call themselves 'conservatives') say to watch out for those liberals and their social justice causes. Oh, but we are proud to claim those labels, and we should let those who are close-minded to us, see and hear our celebration of diversity... and that it does not threaten them. Oh, no, we celebrate their uniqueness, as well. Our world has many oppressors and many oppressed. Let us pray for all these children of God, today and everyday, for as long as we have breath.
We are a spiritual people, who live in a material world. It is a challenging task, to walk the line in between. But I have learned that material pursuits without a spiritual foundation leave me unfulfilled, and that purely spiritual pursuits without paying attention to the material world leave me unpaid or uncompensated. Part of my journey was to learn several hard lessons in my life. I suspect most of you have had such lessons, too. But this one lesson, about balancing the spiritual and the material, has truly changed my life. Many years ago, the winds of change in my life blew me back from Japan to the US – unexpectedly, traumatically. I found my way into a group of people – spiritual people who also lived in the ‘real’ world – who helped me find my way again. It was them who gave me the phoenix, a symbol of rebirth and new beginnings, as the theme for the next phase of my life. When you are faced with such a time in your life, and you will be, I pray that you too find the people and support that you need, to help you find your way again. When you face your challenges, I pray for all you children of God, today and everyday, for as long as I have breath.
I ask for all of these things, in your many, many names, O God. We say we have a shared ministry for a reason – and we have, as they say, a mighty host of witnesses to watch us in our work. Our great ancestors, Thomas Starr King, Olympia Browne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Emperor Julian, Gandhi... and every person who ever taught you something important in your life – these are our witnesses. They watch us as we set about doing all these things we have prayed for today. They are all things I pray to accomplish in my ministry and my life; and, these are things I pray that you accomplish in your lives. This I pray for you, O children of God, today and everyday, for as long as I have breath.
Blessed Be, Biodh se Amhlaidh, and Amen.
(c) 2010 Michael Walker.
a Unitarian Universalist Pagan in Ministry and Education