Rev. Rosas’ pulpit extends to the community, She is the Leadership Development & Campaigns Director at Centro Humanitario para los Trabajadores/as (Humanitarian Center for Workers) where she provides education for economic and social self-development for workers and pastoral accompaniment
Re-Birthing a Nation
Today we celebrate the birth of this nation, a nation that was founded on the principles of freedom, liberty, equality, and the right of the pursuit of happiness for everyone. A nation filled with dreams for a great future.
A long time has passed and in its development as a nation this country has struggled with the embodiment of those founding principles; sometimes it has seemed like it has turned away from them. At times it feels almost like we are a nation in exile, away from home, away from the freedom we dream and hope for, away from equality for all people and creation, away from justice, away from love for one another and for creation. It looks like we as a nation have allowed ourselves to live captive to fear and greed, and have placed our trust in the wrong places.
In our sacred scriptures we learn from the wisdom of the prophet Ezekiel (chapter 37). Ezekiel was a prophet who, along with his people Israel, was in exile. Babylon, a powerful empire of the time, had invaded Israel. The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar had defeated Jerusalem, destroyed its temple, sacked the city, and taken its people into exile to be his servants. Ezekiel is called to be a prophet in the midst of a community living in captivity and oppression, and suffering the loss of their land, their memory, their hope. He is called to proclaim oracles of judgment – since this exile is a consequence of people turning from God’s ways to their own — but the prophet is also called to offer oracles of consolation and hope for restoration.
How can one envision life for a nation when all the signs around them are signs of death as a nation? Ezekiel’s visions offers a creative theology of divine presence, a divine presence that even in the midst of destruction, oppression, and hopelessness, is busy at work, is busy re-creating, restoring, re-membering — putting back together what has been broken.
The prophet is called to believe and engage in action, he is called to get busy at calling forth life in the valley of the dry bones. That is hard work! It requires team work, God and the prophet working together; later it will be the work of God, the prophet, and the nation. But now, the prophet is guided by God, he is reminded that God works beyond geographical and physical boundaries — the Spirit of God moves where it will. The prophet is called to holler and call upon the divine breath, the breath of life for what is dead; the prophet is called to engage in prophetic breathing and prophetic action, even if what he is doing seems crazy, senseless, and beyond the boundaries of reality.
I love this country and like many of you, I also struggle with its history and present reality. A couple of years ago, during Memorial weekend, during our time for communal prayers, a member of our church asked prayers for hope for what this country could be, needs to be. Dr. Vincent Harding, a well-known historian and theologian in our community, wrote a book titled “Is America Possible?” which is a series of essays to whom he calls “my young companions on the journey of hope,” people younger than he is (he is 80) who are busy and committed to the transformation of this country. In that book, and also in his book Hope and History, Dr. Harding reflects on the counter-story of this country. He remind us of the times when men and women and children of this country have engaged in life-giving actions, in peace and justice-making movements, like the civil rights movement. Dr. Harding, echoing Langston Hughes, proposes that this country is a nation that never has been yet, that needs to be re-born, and that you and I are the midwives called to help to give birth to a new nation.
This country is still a great and beautiful nation. This country is our home. The history of this country is not only one of colonization, slavery, unjust wars, oppression, greed, and images of valleys of dry bones, of lies and of destruction of natural resources; I believe like Dr. Harding, that this country has a counter- history, a history of hope, a history of freedom, a history of justice-making people, a history of hospitality and generosity. This country’s history is also one of transformation, of new life.
As people who stand for love, justice, and compassion, we are called to re-birth a nation where the rights given by our Creator — life, freedom, justice, and peace — can be a reality for ALL people and ALL creation. Like Ezekiel we are called to be prophets, to team up with the God of life, to team up with the breath of life, to breathe new life wherever there is death, oppression, and hopelessness.
Like Ezekiel, we are called to engage a faith that is moved by an active hope grounded not only in the reality that we see but also is grounded in God’s vision of what is yet to be, yet to become through us, as we work with God and with one another to change our reality. As life-loving people we can continue re-birthing this nation by continuing to work for justice and peace in our country and in the world; we can continue re-birthing this nation by continuing to practice love and hospitality, by continuing to feed the hungry, by continuing to teach our children and youth with our lives and with our theology what loving-kindness means, by teaching them how to choose life and not death, hope instead of fear. We can re-birth this nation by continuing to embrace our prophetic role, by raising our prophetic voice, and by inviting others to explore in community another way of being in this world.
As we envision, dream, and work towards the kind of nation and world we want to see, I leave with you the words of one of my new favorites song by Brian Sirchio:
“Dream God’s dreams! Holy Spirit help us dream of a world where there is justice and where everyone is free to build and grow and love, and to simple have enough. The world will change, when we dream God’s dreams.”
May you find joy and companions in the journey of dreaming and rebuilding together!