Sunday, July 25, 2010

July 25, 2010 - "Learn to Pray"

Serra Retreat Center, Malibu
Luke 11:1-13

The whole thing begins simply enough … the disciples say to Jesus, Teach us how to pray.

The disciples reminded Jesus that John taught his disciples to pray … so maybe Jesus outta get on with it?

Whatever the motive, it’s a universal thing.
This business of prayer.
Because the world is so big.
And we’re so small.
And we know it.
And we hope there’s a god out there somewhere!

Let’s be honest.
We’d all like a little help now and then from the gods.
Protection for loved ones.
Healing from disease.
A little more money in the bank.
Safe travel.

Human beings pray
We’re profoundly and incurably religious.
Ancient caves thousands of years old reveal drawings and artifacts of religious activities …
History might well be read as a story of what we worship and what we think the divine beings want of us.
Life is full of religion:
Song and dance.
Art and music.
Holy men and holy women.
Rituals and rites.
Good luck charms.
Magic potions.
Spilled salt thrown over our shoulder.
Don’t walk under a ladder.
Don’t step on sidewalk cracks.
Go to church and say our prayers.

If there’s something out there, we’d like it to be on its side.

Prayer is a big business.
Google prayer … 77 million results, .13 seconds …
Go to a book store …
How to pray …
What to pray …
Ancient prayers …
New prayers …
Traditional prayers with thee and thou …
Hip prayers for the young …
Prayers of comfort for the old …
Prayers for parents.
Prayers for children …
You name, we’ve got prayers.

Prayer is a big business.

Teach us how to pray, said the disciples to Jesus.

Simple enough …
And Jesus offers a simple prayer, When you pray, pray like this …
And thus the LORD's Prayer … 

Let’s say it together this morning …

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen!

We can do no better then to pray The LORD's Prayer.
Pray it often.
All sorts of ways:
Pause on each line.
Devote a day to one line.
Let it sink in.
Our Father who art in heaven.

The LORD's Prayer is clear.
Honor God and pray for the stuff of life – bread and forgiveness.

But one line is strange.
Hazard a guess?

You got it,
Lead us not into temptation.

Let’s do some work.
The word can also be translated “testing.”

In Genesis 22, it says, God tested Abraham.

It’s quite a story, but God had to find out what kind of a man Abraham was.
God had to do some testing.
And we know the rest of the story.
God asks Abraham for his son.
The very next day, early in the morning, Abraham loads a mule with wood, and off he goes with his beloved son Isaac … three days trek to a mountain, a high place, to meet God and God’s awful demand, and on that mountain, Abraham builds an alter, places wood on it, binds his son and lays him on the alter, to sacrifice him to God.

At the very moment when Abraham has the knife in hand, ready to do the deed, the LORD calls out, Abraham, Abraham.
Now I know, says the LORD.

No need to go any further.
In the bushes, you’ll find a ram.

Now I know.
You’re the man.
You’re the one to shoulder the burdens of faith for a new day, for a new world.
You have withheld nothing from me.
Even your beloved son.

Life is full of tests.

Teachers test us.
The boss tests us.
Life tests all the time.

Lead us not into a time of testing, says Jesus.
Don’t put us into a place where our faith will be challenged, like Abraham was challenged.
We’re not up to it.
And that’s what this piece is all about.

LORD, we’re not superstars.
We’re not Abraham or Isaac or Jacob.
We’re not giants in the faith.
We’re just fisherman and tax collectors and ordinary folk who try our best.
We don’t pretend to be anything more than what we are.
Flesh and blood human beings.
We love and we laugh.
We work and we weep.
We mess up and do foolish things.
We do good things and smart things.
We are what we are.

And here we are LORD.
We don’t ask to be tested, because we’re not that confident.
We don’t ask to be put on trial, LORD, because we’re not so sure of our selves.
We’re not proud LORD.
We’re not boasting about our faith.
We don’t look down our noses at anyone else LORD.
We know how tough life is for everyone.
So, LORD, don’t put our feet to the fire.
Don’t expect too much of us.
Lead us not into a time of testing.

The prayer ends with one final petition:
Deliver us from evil.

Let me say clearly: This is not a prayer for deliverance from bad things … bad things happen to all of us … there is no escape from hard times …
There was no escape for Jesus, and no escape for us either.
Life is what it is.

It’s prayer for deliverance from the greatest of all evils.
The evils within us.
There is no evil “out there” that can match the “evil within.”

Deliver us from the evil within.
Attitudes that frighten and frustrate.
Ideas that turn our heart heavy with envy and jealousy and anger and impatience and pride.
Longings that make us bitter and cranky and hard to live with …
Things that twist our soul and distort our values.
Deliver us from evil.

And with that, the prayer ends.

But the prayer is NOT the end of the story.
Jesus continues to teach.
Not how to pray.
But to whom we pray.

Anyone can use the words.
But Jesus wants us to know God.
The one to whom we’re praying:

With that, Jesus tells a delightful story.
Let me rework it a bit for you.

It seems that Donna and I got a midnight call from a friend, who just landed at LAX, and needs a place to stay, and he’s really hungry.
And we don’t have a thing to eat in the house.
So I go to my neighbors across the courtyard and pound on their door.
My neighbor hollers, Who’s there and what do you want?
I shout back:
I have an unexpected guest in my house, and the cupboards are bear – do you have any extra bread?
Go away, says my neighbor. I’m in bed; we’re all asleep. Let me alone.
But I keep pounding on the door.
And my neighbor finally gets up and gives me the bread.

Now here’s where the story gets complicated.

Some translations put the emphasis on the persistent person, as if Jesus were teaching us that God is a sleepy neighbor who doesn’t want to be bothered, so we have to make a lot of noise and pound on heaven’s door.

Is that what Jesus is teaching us?
That God would rather be left alone?
That the only way we can get something from God is pound on the door and make a lot of noise?
Make a fuss and embarrass God in front of the neighbors?
Is that what Jesus is teaching us?

Let’s read carefully.
Other translations suggest something else.
The man got up because he didn’t want to appear shameless.
The word for “persistence” can be translated “shameless.”
The burden is not on the guy pounding on the door; the burden is on the man in bed.
The man has a reputation to maintain.
He doesn’t want to look bad.
Now this may not catch our attention, but in First Century Palestine, reputation is everything, and hospitality is the heart of it.

In First Century Palestine,
It was a serious offense to withhold hospitality.

Now we have to stay with the story.
Is God concerned about God’s reputation?
The answer is yes!
Psalm 23: God leads us in paths of righteousness … finish it … for his name’s sake.
For the sake of God’s name.
God’s reputation.

But Jesus goes further.

You all know how to give good things to your children.
And if you know how to love your children, even though you’re not so hot.
How much more does your Father in heaven love you?

This parable moves from the lesser to the greater.
If your neighbor can be awakened in the middle of the night, how more will your Heavenly Father be willing to hear your prayers?

If your neighbor is concerned about his reputation,
How much more is God ready and eager to defend God’s name and maintain God’s reputation?

If we, who are the lesser, know how to love our children,
How much more will the Greater One know how to love us and provide for us?

We don’t have to bang on the door all night long.
God is our friend, and so much more.
God is our Father in Heaven.
God gives what we need.
So, go ahead and ask, and you shall receive.
Seek and you will find.
Knock and the door will be opened.

But you say to me, Preacher, wait a minute … I’ve asked, and I didn’t receive … I’ve looked high and low, and I didn’t find … I’ve knocked on the door, I’ve pounded on the door, and it remains closed.

Jesus adds something that catches us by surprise:
How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

The Holy Spirit?
What’s up with this?
I’m not asking for the Holy Spirit.
When was the last time any of us asked for the Holy Spirit?
I’m asking for health, for a job, for a child in trouble …
But Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit.

To bind our heart and mind to Christ.
And to bind Christ to us.
It’s not what happens to us.
It’s what happens inside of us.
Attitude is everything!

The Holy Spirit is what we need.
A Spirit-filled heart.
Let that be our first prayer in the morning, and our last prayer at night:
O LORD my God, fill my heart with your Holy Spirit.

So that however life plays itself out for us, we sing the songs of God.

In life and in death.
In the best of times and in the worst.
In our laughter and in our tears.
With faith, hope and love.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Amen and Amen!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

July 18 2010 - "An Uppity Woman"

Luke 10:38-41

Did ya’ hear about the economy?

The economy is so bad, I got a pre-declined credit card in the mail.

The economy is so bad, Motel Six won’t leave the light on anymore.

The economy is so bad, Exxon-Mobile laid off 25 Senators and House members.

The economy is so bad, CEOs are playing miniature golf.

Nothing like a good chuckle now and then to lift the spirit and put a smile on our face.

When folks heard about Mary and Martha, there were a lot of chuckles, and some frowns as well …

Some folks would’ve said, “Well done Mary.”
Others would have observed, “An uppity woman.”

Whatever it was that day, Mary stepped out of her box … or out of the kitchen, so to speak.

Mary violated a boundary … a boundary of place and  behavior.

Cooking belonged to women …
Women belonged in the kitchen …

Archeology tells us a lot … ancient homes had food prep areas removed from living areas – food was a woman’s thing, done outta sight.

Sound familiar?

American homes after WW2 - kitchens walled off from the eating areas … think of Thanksgiving … turkey and mashed potatoes prepared by (?) … women … served by (?) women, and after dinner, the woman cleaned up … and the men? … the men kicked back in their recliners and feel asleep … oh well.

But have ya’ noticed how homes are designed these days?

Kitchen and eating melded together … people gather in the kitchen, pitch in with dicing and chopping as they socialize … no walls between kitchen and dining, and what with the Food Channel, men are cooking as much as women are!

Not so in Mary’s time.
Boundaries were set … when Mary stepped out of the kitchen to “sit at the feet of Jesus,” she violated the boundaries …

The picture on the front of our bulletin says it well.

Sitting at the feet of Jesus is code language for being a disciple.
It’s not a physical location … it’s a commitment to learn from someone.
If we’re in school, we might say, “I’m sitting under Professor’s so-and-so’s teaching.”
Mary sat at the feet of Jesus.

To become a rabbi herself!

This is what disciples did?
They sat at the feet of a rabbi, to become rabbis.
And if they did well, one day, the rabbi would say to them, Go now. Go into all the world and make disciples. Spread the word. Teach what I’ve taught. And I’m with you always.

Mary said: I want to be a rabbi, too.
Is there room for me?
Can I do it?

Mary, get back into the kitchen where you belong!

That’s what Martha said!
Get back where you belong!

Let’s be honest.
This is not a pretty picture.
Mary sits at the feet of Jesus to learn.
Martha fumes.
Don’t you care LORD?
Care about what?
Social world?
Matha’s agenda?

No Martha, I don’t care about those things.
And you shouldn’t either.
Martha, Martha (the double use of her name – pay attention Martha; listen up), you are worried and distracted about many things, but Mary has chosen the better part!

End of discussion!
So, where do we go from here?

Several things.

Boundaries are helpful.
Physical boundaries, that is.
When the light turns red, stop!
When it’s green, go!
Stay in your lane; don’t cross the yellow line.
Stay behind the fence.
Don’t walk on the grass.
Wash your vegetables.
Cook chicken thoroughly.
Bag your doggy’s stuff.

Boundaries all over the place, and mostly helpful.

But not all boundaries are helpful.
Like social boundaries.
Social boundaries can be downright nasty!

I remember family travels to Florida in the 50s …
Signage on buildings, “Colored entrance only” …

Remember when country clubs wouldn’t allow Jews?
Civic clubs wouldn’t allow women?

Social boundaries.
You can’t live here … you can’t come in … you don’t belong here … go to the back of the bus!

One day in December,1955, a tired lady by the name of Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white passenger … she was too tired to get up and move to the back of the bus – tired of being a second class citizen in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Her courage created the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
And the walls came tumbling down.

Joshua fit the battle of Jericho.
And the walls came tumbling down.

Joshua is the Hebrew name for Jesus.
Jesus is named after the man who brought the walls down.
Jesus fit the battle his Jericho …
Jesus crossed boundaries, to come our way, and be our savior.
Tore down walls …
The dividing walls of hostility, Paul the Apostle would write years later …

Our nation right now is debating all kind of walls and boundaries:
Marital boundaries.
Who’s married and who isn’t?
Is marriage ONLY between a man and a woman, or can marriage include any two adults who love one another, and want to care for one another, and create a home together?

Who’s an American?
Does that mean one has to speak English ONLY?
And how well should one speak?
What about our governor’s accent?
Children born of undocumented families – are those children automatically citizens?
Who’s in and who’s out?

Christians have spend enormous amount of time on who’s a Christian and who isn’t.

In the 5th Century – the Donatist controversy.
Bishop Donatus said: If ya’ caved in under Roman persecution, you’re not fit for the kingdom of God. Go away. We don’t want you.
The good bishop believed the church should be full of saints, and not sinners …
The good bishop spent a lot of time figuring out who was in and who was out.
The good bishop would be right at home in many a fundamentalist church today, right here in America …
The good bishop would have his own TV program, spreading his message of judgment and exclusion.
He’d be the head of a publishing empire and live in Colorado Springs, or Orange County.
His wife would wear fluffy little dresses with her hair perfectly teased.

All around the world, Christians still fuss and frett like Martha about things that don’t count right now … fuss and frett about boundaries, and who’s in and who’s out … who’s a member and who isn’t …

Our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers really struggle with boundaries, don’t they?
Who can receive communion?
Is the priesthood only for men?
And what about a priest who abuses children? Is that man still a priest?

Protestants, too, have their boundaries.
Go to a conservative church, and you’re likely to be questioned on all sorts of things.
Go to a liberal church, and you’ll be questioned about the same things …
Some of that is important, but not now.
Not in the world in which we live.
Not with so much sorrow and so much grief.
We don’t need to be spending time in the kitchen … but a lot more time at the feet of Jesus.

In our story today, a principle:
Boundaries that keep people out are never helpful.
Jesus breaks those kinds of boundaries boundaries.
He touches the dead.
He welcomes women.
He hangs around with sinners.
He doesn’t bow and scrap before the powerful.
He disregards dietary rules and violates Sabbath regulations.
He goes where he shouldn’t.
He does what is forbidden.

Now, something interesting happens.
Folks either get really angry at Jesus …
Or … folks get brave around him.
Fishermen leave their nets and families.
Matthew steps outta the tax booth.
Peter gets outta the boat.
Mary steps outta the kitchen.

In the presence of Jesus, they got brave!

On a more personal basis, what about our own boundaries.
Have we ever said to ourselves, “I can’t do it?”

That’s a boundary, isn’t it?
No one said it to us.
No one told us we couldn’t do it.
Or maybe they did.
Sometimes we inherit hideous boundaries from our families:
You’ll never amount to anything.
Why can’t you do what your older brother does?
Keep quiet.
Put away those brushes and get back to your homework.
Real men don’t cry, they play football.
Real women are always pretty, and never good at math.

A young mother bought a ham for dinner, and cut off the ends before baking.
Her daughter asked her, Why do you cut the ends off?”
The mother replied, I don’t know. That’s the way my mother did it?
I think I’ll ask her.

So she asked her mom, Why do you cut off the ends of the ham?
Her mother replied, Well, that’s the way MY mother did it, and she was a good cook.

Now great grandmother was still living, so they decided to ask her.
And great gramma said, I never had a pan big enough for a whole ham, so I cut off the ends so it would fit.

Today is a good day to look at our boundaries … social boundaries, emotional boundaries - boundaries that keep us down and keep us out.

It’s never too late to get outta the kitchen.
Never too late to cross a boundary.
Never too late to sit at the feet of the rabbi.

Mary chose the better part.

Mary, an uppity woman!
And to God be the glory!

Amen and Amen!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

July 4, 2010 - "Challenge and Thanksgiving"

Jeremiah 29:1-14

Good morning, and Happy 4th of July …
234 years ago, the Second Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence:

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

The war continued seven more years.
France and Spain came to our assistance.
Cornwallis surrendered at the end of 1781.
Preliminary articles of peace signed November 30, 1782
Full treaty: September 3, 1783.

It’s quite a story …
And we can be justly proud … and deeply grateful.

So get out the grill,
Light the firecrackers,
Head off to the beach …
Enjoy the show …
And a happy 4th of July.

America is a great nation …
Great in vision and great in kindness and great in generosity …
The inscription on the Statue of Liberty says it well:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

The American experiment - remains unique …
A rare mixture of peoples and religions from around the world … e pluribus unum – one out of many.

Our political systems are second to none.
Though terribly messy.
Because democracy is a messy business.

I was a senate chaplain several times in Oklahoma.
Be there an entire week to open the Senate with prayer.
After prayer, I’d stay in the Senate a few hours to hear the debate and enjoy the protocol.
When evening came, when my senator-friend and I would go out to be entertained by lobbyists … steak and lobster all around the table …
Friday morning, the chaplain-for-the-week was given an opportunity to address the body, and I remember saying to the senators:
This is one of the messiest things I’ve ever seen.
And one of the most beautiful.
So very messy.
So very beautiful.
Don’t every try to clean it up.
Don’t ever try to get rid of the mess.
As long as it’s messy, we’re on safe ground.

Over the years, our nation has wrestled with some of the world’s most famous words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“All men” it says …

There was a time when “men” was literal … no women allowed, except in the kitchen … but after decades of debate and struggle, women’s suffrage helped us get beyond gender.

There was a time when the word “all” was not so big as it is now.

There was a time when the word “all” did not include Native Americans … who were likely to be called “savages” …

The word “all” didn’t apply to people of color either … and we had to fight a Civil War to work out the details on what the word “all” meant.

In Los Angeles, 1943, the Zoot Suit riots:
A series of riots erupted between white sailors and Marines stationed throughout the city and Latino youth, who were recognizable by the zoot suits they favored.
African American and Filipino youth were also targeted.
Similar attacks against Latinos occurred in Beaumont, Chicago, San Diego, Detroit, Evansville, Philadelphia, and New York.

Earlier in the 20th Century, Irish Catholics were attacked and beaten, and later on, Italians and Puerto Ricans fought it out on the streets of New York City … captured in the Broadway Play, “Westside Story.”

Only recently, have we worked our way through unfair housing laws … red-lined neighborhoods: unscrupulous agreements between bankers and white landlords and realtors.

Our own history here in California tells the tale:

Who can forget the wholesale detainment of Japanese Americans during WW2 and their dispersal to camps around the west?

In the years following World War II, African Americans were confronted with increasing patterns of housing segregation
In 1955, William Byron Rumford, the first black to serve in the California State Legislature, introduced a fair-housing bill outlawing housing discrimination on the basis of race.
In 1963, the Legislature passed the Rumford Fair Housing Act which outlawed restrictive covenants and the refusal to rent or sell on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, marital status, or physical disability.
In reaction to the law, a well-funded coalition of realtors and landlords was determined to undo the law.
They immediately began to campaign for a referendum that would amend the state Constitution to allow property owners the right to deny minorities equal access to housing.
Known as Proposition 14, it was passed by 65 percent of the voters …
In 1966, the California State Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 14 violated the State Constitution's provisions for equal protection and due process.
In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed the decision of the California Supreme Court and ruled that Proposition 14 had violated the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.

And I might add, Covenant Presbyterian Church decided to back fair housing … and when the news hit the streets, folks left the church over it.

But I wonder, can a Christian believe in anything but fair housing?
Can an American believe in anything but equal opportunity?
For freedom, Christ set us free, writes the Paul the Apostle.
For freedom, our founding mothers and fathers set the course of this nation.
We will continue to work our way through all of these questions … America has taken the wrong step sometimes, but more often than not, America has corrected itself and gotten back on the path of freedom and equality.

I celebrate with you today the goodness of America:
Education, freedom and research.
The Erie Canal and the Hoover Dam.
Irrigation and California’s Central Valley.
Powerhouse universities all across the land.
The Big Apple, the Windy City and Hollywood and Vine.

We are nation of natural beauty:
From the rugged coasts of Maine to the Great Lakes, the Mighty Mississippi, the Ohio and the Missouri.
The Smoky Mountains and the Rockies …
Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, the Mojave Desert and the Redwoods.

We are a nation of civil rights and freedom …

President Eisenhower sent a thousand soldiers to Little Rock to protect nine African Americans enrolled in Central High School …

Senator Everett Dirksen stepped across the aisle, earning the wrath of his GOP colleagues, to help President Johnson pass our nation’s landmark Civil Rights Legislation.

The Rev. William Sloan Coffin and the Freedom Riders … and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Bridge to Selma.

Just this past week, the death of Senator Byrd, who as a young man joined the KKK, and then later apologized for it, and went on to a fine career to help us define the word “all” in the biggest and best possible ways.

America has made tremendous strides in race, the rights of children - and equality for women … including abortion rights and free access to birth control …

One of the more pressing issues right now is marriage equality for lesbians and gays … I believe we will resolve this issue, as we have the previous questions of race and gender.

Another pressing issue before us is health care, and I believe we will work our way through all of this and see the day when all Americans have access to reliable and affordable health care, especially our children.

Issues of public transportation, immigration and environmental quality are huge, and I believe we will find our way on these matters, too.

I believe in America … I believe we have within us the means and the resolve to keep open doors open, and open a few more doors along the way.

But one more piece needs our attention this morning.

In the early 60s, I was a hawk … go get the Commies in SE Asia; bomb the daylights out of ‘em …
But I did some homework on our role in SE Asia after WW2, after the French were defeated, and I came to believe that our war there was a mistake, based upon a mistaken policy, the Domino Theory – crafted by John Foster Dulles, the son of a Presbyterian minister, by the way.
It was the early 50s, a time characterized by McCarthyism … Black Lists, suspicion, fear, children crouching under their school desks and bomb shelters in the back yard.
Dulles’ Domino Theory guided the Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson administrations into a costly war from which we are still recovering.

But hats off to President Nixon who helped us out of Vietnam.
And hats off to Nixon who tore down the walls of suspicion and fear with China and built bridges instead …
As much as I regret Nixon’s role in Watergate, he was a internationalist who understood, rightly I believe, that America is at its best when it builds bridges to the world.

During the tumultuous 60s, I remember a phrase hurled at war protestors, “America, love it or leave it” … remember that?

I always said, “I love America; that’s why I protest the war!”

Ever since the Revolutionary War, and with World Wars 1 & 2, Christians have been supportive of America’s foreign policy – in many a mainline congregation, we find memorial plaques honoring those who served and died in America’s wars …

Which reminds me …
A little boy was standing in front of one of those plaques when the pastor walked by … the little boy asked the pastor what it was all about.
“Young man,” said the pastor, “this plaque has the names of everyone who died in the service.”
The little boy replied, “Which service, the 8:30 or the 11:00 o’clock?”

War looks good on the History Channel, and after the third martinia, it looks even better … nations love to lionize the warrior and blow the trumpet … 
But in reality, war is hideous, and Christians, especially, need to think carefully about faith and war.
Because we follow the Prince of Peace.
And we say to one another every Sunday, “God’s Peace.”

Speaking for myself, I am a grateful America, pleased to call this land home – a land of spacious skies and amber waves of grain, majestic purple mountains and the fruited plain … from sea to shining sea.
I choke up when I see the Stars and Stripes in a parade … and hear the National Anthem played at the Olympics … and taps played at a funeral.
I get goose bumps and a lump in my throat when I watch a flyover of f-16s.
I’ll never forget seeing my first American cemetery overseas  … my Belgian friends drove me there … we got out of the cars and walked up a wide stone stairway toward a colonnade, and there, at the top of the walkway, spreading out before me, thousands of graves – white marble crosses and Stars of David - gleaming in the sun … not a blade of grass out of place.
I couldn’t speak – my throat choked with emotion …
A few years later, our whole family strolled among the ten thousand graves of Normandy, all of us moved beyond words … I found a young soldier’s grave, who died on the day I was born … I stood there, and I wept.

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years,
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.

Amen and Amen!