In 1883, Emma Lazarus, a Jewish poet living in Brooklyn, transformed our Statue of Liberty into the symbol of a radical welcome for all. “Give me your tired, your poor, she calls, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Did your ancestors gaze longingly at this statue on their way to Ellis Island where their suitability to become Americans was determined? Or did your ancestors arrive years before in the cargo of ships coming from Africa, not with a dream but as a commodity of others, to be bought and sold? Or, has your family, like Forrest Cuch’s, the Ute elder who spoke to us in November, lived here for millennia, flourishing with a way of life that would clash with the coming settlers. No matter how your ancestors arrived, at some point, they began to hope that this place would shelter their family, give them enough to live a happy life. World history, as our personal family histories, holds constellations of this hope. A year ago, camping at Standing Rock, I basked in the light of human hope, a memory that warms me still. I love that part of the human spirit that rises with the hope of others, that is willing to protect and facilitate the hope of others. The hope woven into our web of community can be seen and felt in the strands that are warm to the touch. They are the most beautiful colors you can imagine. This is the treasure that each of you brings to our community. Your hope that gets you up on Sunday morning and to our services and out to the Youth Resource Center to prepare a meal or outside the library to practice tai chi with people living without permanent shelter, or preparing nutritious meals for your children or sitting with them as they read the same sentence over and over again, or being patient when your loved one with dementia asks a question for the hundredth time. Hope is our treasure. Fan the light of hope in your heart and in the hearts of others. Together we can light the world.
During our Christmas Eve morning, we will become participants in a great tapestry of hope, bringing each of our family histories of needing welcome and listening to the stories of others. Let us open our hearts and minds to the people whose stories, different from our own, are also imbued with hope. May we hold their hope with care and may we weave a world that facilitates the hopes of all. May the door of our church shine into the world like that of the Statue of Liberty. May we each lift our lamps and shine!
p.s. Mary Lou is now writing a song from the words of Emma Lazarus that the South Valley Singers will premiere on the 10th of December.