On Thursday of last week, Deval L. Patrick made history as the first African-American to be inaugurated the governor of Massachusetts, and only the second of any state in American history. I had the honor of giving the benediction (which was quoted by the New York Times). Here are the words I spoke, the article in the Times, and google video coverage.
Governor Patrick, Lieutenant Governor Murray, elected and civic leaders, people of the commonwealth, I am most deeply honored to offer these words of invocation to open this sacred assembly.
In the Talmud, the ancient rabbis teach that whenever we encounter a large gathering of people, it is appropriate to offer the following blessing:
Blessed is the Wise One Who understands secrets For the mind of each Is different from the other Just as the face of each Is different from the other.
Source of all life, Out of many, You have made us ONE. You have created us splendidly In our distinctiveness: You have made us a spectacular, Living tapestry Many colors and complexions Rich in languages and beliefs, Varied in our blessings, And challenged by our curses.
Indeed the face of each one Is different than the other And here we gather Meeting, Face to face.
Look around! See the beauty of the faces, Each one unique Reflecting the very image Of the divine Each one from a common source A single, sacred family.
Yet behind every face Hide so many secrets. Private, painful secrets of suffering. If only we would find your Wisdom O God Revealing all the secrets, The pained suffering Of parents who watch helpless As their children are plagued By guns, drugs, and gangs The private pain Of children struggling to care for their parents As they age and grow frail, The secret suffering of immigrants Who like us came to this place To seek a better life And labor hidden and underpaid in jobs Upon which the rest of us depend, But wont do ourselves Of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters Who daily confront blatant discrimination, Inequality and humiliation Of those who sleep in the streets, Those who are overworked and underpaid, Those who are abused in their own homes Those who are left behind By their disabilities.
So many secrets, Private sufferings.
Yet we have hope. Yes we have faith. Because we have each other.
Assembled here in the light of day Bathing in the unseasonable warmth of your presence, We affirm that democracy Is not built with bricks and mortar; We know your ancient wisdom Is found in no cathedral, Temple, Nor shrine It is here, Face to face It is everywhere humanity gathers And out of many, Makes one.
Let our secrets of suffering Give way to stories of Rebuilding Repair And Redemption
Stories of redemption Like a kid from the South Side of Chicago Becoming the governor of Massachusetts Representing the people
We the people;
Let us never forget the faces The secrets And the stories
God, grant us your wisdom That we may never forget that Democracy happens out here Face to face Among the people As we join together In one spirit And write one shared story:
The story of a commonwealth That acts like a commonwealth Where secrets of private suffering Where tales of lonely languish Are joined Through the power of the people Rising up Together Encountering one another Face to face And writing a new story One story
Echoing Isaiahs ancient call:
If you banish the yoke from your midst The menacing hand And evil speech And you offer your compassion to the hungry And satisfy the needs of the afflicted, Then shall your light shine in the darkness And your gloom shall be like noonday
You shall be like a watered garden Like a spring whose waters never fail. And you shall rebuild ancient ruins You shall restore the foundations of many generations You shall be called the repairer of the breach
This is the story of redemption; The story of a true commonwealth Rebuilt Repaired And Redeemed.