Love was a corner stone of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work for justice. In 1967 he had this to say about what that meant.
[From Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’S 1967 address to the anti-war group Clergy and Laity Concerned]:
“When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another; for love is God and everything that love[s] is born of God and knows[s] God.”
That could also be heard as “Let us love one another; for love is [Good] and everything that loves is born of [Good] and knows [Good.]”
From Racial justice work that recognizes the dangers of systemic and institutional racism; to environmental work that searches for a place of love as the effects of fracking are explored with those who may hold a differing opinion; to Trans* equality . . .All are important aspects of loving our fellow beings and ourselves. In fact, these issues especially need love to be generously applied . . . including to ourselves — not getting stuck in a prideful love, but a compassion that also helps us connect to others in meaningful ways.
Love *WILL* guide us . . . Love *has* guided us. But, how do we nurture the kind of love that we need?
We are in the middle of a whole month of love. Besides Valentine’s Day, the Standing on the Side of Love people have just concluded the 30-Days of Love. How many of you (by a show of hands) are familiar with the Standing on the Side of Love organization? How many of you (by a show of hands) were aware of, or participated in the 30-Days of Love sponsored by Standing on the Side of Love? This was a daily reminder and challenge . . . to open our eyes to the many ways that we can stand on the side of love and justice as well as ways of sharing time together that adds more meaning.
I encourage you to check out their website for all the resources and posts from the 30-days of love campaign at StandingOnTheSideofLove.org.
Just last weekend was the Mass Moral March in NC for voter rights (among other things.) It was a place where people from faith traditions including Unitarian Universalists and representatives from the United Church of Christ gathered in solidarity. They gathered in their love with many more sending love and supporting from home.
But where does all this love come from?
As I was contemplating how love guides us as Unitarian Universalists, I realized that Love and Justice live in covenant with each other. They support each other and I would suggest are not truly complete without the other. The great force of Love supports moving toward justice. Justice is sustained and made meaningful by the love that powers the movement.
One of my favorite quotes from Cornell West includes, “justice is what love looks like in public” So, love and justice are already strong allies.
We need look no further than our first Unitarian Universalist principle: we affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all people. We are ALL worthy of love and this feeds into the Justice, Equity and Compassion of our 2nd Unitarian Universalist principle.
One way of developing the love we find most useful in community and for social justice work is a practice called Metta Meditation, which is also known as Loving-Kindness Meditation.
Metta, or Loving-Kindness meditation starts with bringing to mind one person at a time and cultivating loving-kindness . . . starting with ourselves, then a friend, and ultimately concluding with sending loving-kindness to all sentient beings. Metta provides a means of reconnecting to the humanity of an issue or situation.
I’ve been doing my own research by using a guided metta meditation with my new “Insight Timer” app. A Loving-Kindness meditation is for the development of an open and compassionate heart. Recognizing the humanity in ourselves and others and realizing that we all have a strong common bond of wanting to be well, happy, and free from suffering.
We start with ourselves, because that is where our experience starts. This lays a healthy foundation for our Loving-Kindness – like the airline safety talk encourages, put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others. May *I* be well. May *I* be happy. May *I* be free from suffering. Then, it moves on to others . . .May *you* be well. . . happy. . . free from
suffering. It is a step by step process that ultimately ends with all sentient beings — all beings who can feel pain or experience joy. May *we* be well. May *we* be happy. May *we* be free from suffering. This sense of opening allows the opportunity to let go of the particular worries and concerns of the day and focus just on the feelings of loving-kindness or metta.
This meditation, over time, further develops a sense of connection and a stronger empathy with other people. It makes sense that a feeling of loving-kindness — of connection and empathy — helps power our social justice. It is also personally empowering by recognizing there are basic needs we all strive for.
Here in Maryland we have been successful by working toward, and ultimately passing, Marriage Equality.
We have another opportunity to share the love and help our state grow its heart even larger by supporting the inherent worth and dignity of our Trans* identified sisters and brothers. On Monday (tomorrow) at 5:30pm in Annapolis there will be a Trans* rally & lobby day. I encourage you to attend if you are so moved.
Life, as it works toward justice, is like one big Loving-Kindness Meditation. Working with the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Maryland is one way to live that Loving-Kindness. As we move toward justice, aren’t we acting out a way of saying “may all beings be well, may all beings be happy, may all beings be free from suffering”? We may not stick our fingers in our ears, but we can get to a poine of numbness about the challenges going on around us.
UU Rev. Meg Riley describes her experience with metta this way, “As an activist I must be willing to open myself to pain… I must be willing to connect myself to larger forces and understand that I am part of them.”… “Metta allows me to find a resting place in all”.
Love powers Social Justice work by providing a meaningful spiritual practice much like a metta meditation. We begin with the self – maybe with issues that most directly affect us, building our sense of love and justice. Then we expand out to particular others, maybe with a friend or family member in mind as we work toward equity for a particular oppressed group. And then, our circle of love expands further and we continue to develop that love for all people, for all beings.
A friend of mine is the Queen of online gaming, but she understands balance, too. She is a good role model for being both fun AND a responsible adult. She happens to be one of the people my two boys look up to most and she is a transgender woman. Knowing her adds the extra emotional emphasis for me to work toward trans* equality. I had the honor of officiating as she married her wife this last spring thanks to marriage equality being passed. It happened to be the first wedding my boys had ever attended and the first time they had ever witnessed their mother in a ministerial role. It was a special day for many reasons and is part of my source of energy to work toward.
From *I* to *you* to *we*
This love perpetuates action even as the specifics or types of actions are forever changing and transitioning.
The experience of an open heart expanding as we come to a greater understanding of oppression and injustice; working toward equality as best we can understand it at this time; and living our values by our daily choices — can all be part of an intentional spiritual practice. We find the specific parts that “feed” our soul – where we find our greatest joy – and continue the process by continually going back to the well of what feeds us for what we need. Sometimes, being in community feeds us, sometimes direct contact with those most affected feeds us, or a sense of purpose gleaned from the intentional way we live our lives adds the depth and allows us to be open to the joy. Sometimes it is allowing the time for reflection afterward that prepares us for accepting joy.
Love empowers by showing how much can be done… with each success, or each additional person who gets involved we become more of a caring community. Even if someone is not directly involved in the “action” they can be supportive by supporting the people who *are* directly involved.
I, like many others, was not able to travel to North Carolina for the Mass Moral March last weekend. I was disappointed but wanted to support those who could go. I went to my favorite “in the moment” source – twitter – to stay up on what was going on that Saturday morning. I went to the hashtag for the march and read where people were headed, saw what they were seeing with the pictures they posted, and through their posts could read and almost feel how inspired and grateful they were to be involved. I passed along *my* thoughts with those I had gotten from other sources and let the marchers know that as they “prayed with their feet”* [*from Autumn Mahoney] they represented so many more who were there in spirit. I had the joy of watching my tweet flit its way through the twitter-verse as it was retweeted by others to share with ever more expanding circles. So someone who wasn’t even physically present was able to make even a small ripple on that Moral March Saturday — as so many of us “tweeted on the side of love.”
Through the strength of love and justice we can all feel empowered to be fully functioning change makers, we *are* the ones we have been waiting for. We can be proud of some of the transitions we have supported – not the least of which is supporting our DREAMers and achieving marriage equality in Maryland! Now we have the next empowered step of trans*equality coming up. We can be part of bringing inherent worth and dignity to even more Marylanders!
Love *will* guide us… hope inside us will lead the way.
If you have looked ahead in the order of service you may have noticed that our closing hymn is When Our Heart is in a Holy Place. The words “We are blessed with love and amazing grace, when our heart is in a holy place” spell out a benefit of expanding our loving-kindness, our metta, to include an ever larger more encompassing group of beings. *WE* are blessed with love; *WE* are blessed with grace, when our heart is in that holy place.
We can not only heal the wounds of others through our work for Social Justice, but with conscious intention we can heal ourselves.
Maybe we can view Social Justice work not just as altruism, but as an active connection to Beloved Community; as a Self-sustaining spiritual practice of hope and compassion rooted in deep listening with application of thoughtful and concrete resources.
May all beings be well, may all beings be happy, may all beings find peace.
I will end this morning with these words from Tom Gerdy, a writer for the Huffington Post1.
“At the rear of the aisles in most churches, you will find one or more sets of twin doors that lead to a vestibule or narthex. Above those doors, building codes require a sign with a lit four-letter word–EXIT. I have always thought that sign is not what should hang above the doors at the end of the aisles in a church. As you leave your chosen church and head out into your community, you should see a sign that reads ‘SERVICE ENTRANCE.’ If everyone took that to heart as he or she left church each week, the problems in our country would rapidly become much more manageable.”
From *I* to *you* to *we* . . . May we all choose love to guide our service to others.
Blessed be. Amen.
Huffington Post article by Tom Gerdy 2/11/2014