Faith Forward Dallas Media & Statements

Eddie Bernice Johnson Prayer Breakfast | February 12, 2018 | Rabbi Nancy Kasten

The Hebrew Bible is very clear. Plenty and wellbeing do not come from hard work or good fortune, but from the source of all, the Holy One, Creator of all that was and is and will be. Our blessings come from God, and in return, we are asked to be faithful stewards of those blessings, using them to create the kind of society that God would wish to inhabit. 

In his book God in Search of Man, the philosopher and rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel states ”There is no reverence for God without reverence for man (sic). Love of man(sic) is the way to the love of God.” Each of our traditions is clear in its own way: Our love for God is hollow if we do not exhibit it in our daily treatment of our fellow human beings. 

In Biblical times the sabbatical year was observed, not only for purposes of sustainable agriculture, but out of a profound commitment and respect for human life. Every seven years there was a remission of debt, in order to prevent systemic poverty from taking root and destroying communal integrity and wellbeing. The sabbatical year was a reset button, a measure to prevent inequities from building up and compounding one another. It was a tangible way to demonstrate love of human beings, above and beyond the love of material possessions. It was a way for us to make God’s power of redemption manifest in the world on a regular basis, so that we wouldn’t forget that it’s potential is there for us, not just every seven years, but in every single moment of every single day.

In today’s world, we desperately need a reset button. We need to find our version of a sabbatical year. Inequities in housing, education, jobs, transportation, public health, and public safety have formed a Gordian knot in which no one area can be addressed without addressing the others. It will take bold and brave thinking, and a willingness to give up some of what we think is rightfully ours, in order to begin to unravel that knot. And before we can even begin, we have to loosen our own knots; of pain, of disappointment, of distrust and disillusionment, in order to leave behind our obsession with scarcity and open ourselves up to the possibilities of abundance. 

We must reclaim our ancient knowledge that corporations are not people. Only people are people. And each person is created in God’s image, and deserves to be treated that way, all the time. We are not allowed to pay anyone less than they rightfully earn, or withhold medical treatment from them, or close their schools, or deprive them of safe drinking water, or let them freeze to death on the street, or incarcerate them without due process. We are not allowed to say “We’re sorry, but we just can’t figure it out, even if we don’t yet see a way to figure it out. 

In the story of the Exodus, the last three plagues visited upon the Egyptians before Pharoah releases the Israelites from bondage are the plagues of locusts, darkness, and the slaying of the first born. All of these plagues are actually plagues of darkness. The locusts are said to be so thick that “the land was darkened” (10:15.) The darkness of the plague of darkness is “so thick it can be touched” (10:21.) And the slaying of the first bornoccurs at the darkest time of night, just before the dawn. 

The plagues come as a result of hardened hearts. With the first seven plaguesPharoah hardens his own heart. And with the last three, God hardens Pharaohs heart, as if to make sure he and we get the message: when hearts are hardened and human suffering is not addressed, darkness descends. Wecan only hope to keep that darkness at bay if we work together to keep our hearts tender. We can and must model what openheartedness and an attitude of abundance can do. We can and must search together for rays of light to loosen the Gordian knot that keeps so many in bondageOn this day of prayer we pray for redemption, and we also pray for the humility, the creativity, the strength, the generosity and the courage to be agents of redemption, joining our unique and varied gifts in such a way that systems of oppression become systems of opportunity, and God’s light shines brightly enough to drive out the darkness.

Eddie Bernice Johnson Prayer Breakfast | February 12, 2018 | The Reverend Dr. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas (Senior Pastor, Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ)

God of many names, known to us individually and personally. As people of faith, spanning many traditions and experiences, we come this day to pray for unity and to call upon the best that we know of You to be made real in us.

In a world of division and discrimination, of divisive actions and disenfranchised communities, on this 23rd annual prayer breakfast, we know that we have not lined up to what we know is good and holy. We know that we can do better and that You challenge us, because of our faith, to bring down the systems of oppression that have brought us to this place.

God — we are bold enough, this day, to call them by their names: Racism; Ageism; Sexism; White Privilege; Misogyny; Homophobia; Patriarchy; Transphobia.

God, it feels as though we live with a lot of fear, when You call us to live with a lot of love – Perfect Love – Your love – casts out our fear.

Increase our capacity to love our neighbor: Muslim, Hindu, B’hai, Jewish, Athiest; HIV+; Queer; Immigrant and undocumented neighbor; Addicted; Refugee; Our imprisoned; Transgender.

Give us a sense of what it means when we say – “But by the grace of God.”

We give thanks for the leadership of Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. We thank you that unity, diversity and inclusion have been values that drive her. By Your grace, encourage her to make these values ever present in the halls and on the floor of the Senate as she speaks truth to power.

Thank you for her radical inclusion of “other” as she represents us all in Washington, DC.

Bless us now, with the power of shalom, salaam, peace as we work together for the cause of unity and harmony, and equality.

And so it is – Amen and Ameen.

“A Prayer for the Service of Light and Remembrance: Remembering our Homeless Neighbors” at First United Methodist Church Dallas | November 6, 2016 | LINK

  • “Remarks by the President at Memorial Service for Fallen Dallas Police Officers.” whitehouse.gov | July 12, 2016 | LINK

  • “Former Beth Am rabbi speaks at Dallas memorial.” The Miami Herald | July 17, 2016 | LINK

  • “The Bright Heart of Dallas.” Patheos | July 9, 2016 | LINK

  • “‘Does It Always Have to Be That Hatred Forces Us To Love?’: Thanks-Giving Square, 7/8/16.” D Magazine FrontBurner | July 8, 2016 | LINK

  • “Baptist Pastors Stand in Solidarity With Muslims at Interfaith Events.” EthicsDaily | December 17, 2015 | LINK

Events, Programs & Participation

Past Events & Programs

  • Community Tree of Remembrance Service | December 21, 2016
  • Community Tree of Remembrance Service | December 1, 2016
  • UN Day Celebration | October 26, 2016
  • Compassion Walk September 21, 2016
  • Keeping the Faith: An Interfaith Dialogue on Women & Religion in North Texas | September 6, 2016
  • Dallas Remembers: Charleston — One Year Later | June 17, 2016
  • Allen Brooks Remembrance Day | March 2016

Participation

  • Dr. Rev. Michael W. Waters: Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson’s “Moving Forward Together: Less Talk, More Action” solutions-based town hall forum | July 17, 2016
  • Rabbi Andrew Paley, Imam Omar Suleiman: Dallas police memorial service at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center | July 13, 2016
  • Rev. Dr. Joe Clifford, Bishop TD Jakes, Rabbi David Stern, Rev. Dr. Andy Stoker, Imam Omar Suleiman: Multi-faith prayer vigil at Thanks-Giving Square | July 8, 2016
  • Mayor’s Iftar Dinner event at Dallas City Hall | June 21, 2016
  • Dallas to Orlando, a Vigil for Those Lost on 6/12 — Prayer Vigil & Press Conference | June 13, 2016
  • Rev. Dr. Joe Clifford, Rabbi Andrew Paley: National Day of Prayer Luncheon | May 6, 2016
  • Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson’s 21st Annual Prayer Breakfast | February 23, 2016