May 31, 2013
Reverend Canon John E. Kitagawa, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ
I am very pleased to be with you once again, and I am honored be here at the bimah to address you. My starting point this evening is a little unusual, so please bear with me. All Episcopal clergy in Arizona have seen a video featuring Simon Sinek talking about How Great Leaders Inspire Action . Sinek's premise is rather simple. He uses the "Golden Circle" to illustrate. Imagine a target with a bull's eye in the middle, with two concentric circles around it. He labels the center "Why", the next circle "How", and the outer ring, "What". Sinek says most people are pretty clear about "What" a company or organization does, "How" they do it, but tend to be fuzzy about "Why" they do it. He goes on to use this simple construct to explain Martin Luther King, Jr's. ability to succeed where others had failed. Sinek's contention is that King succeeded because he focused on the "Why" rather than on the "What" or the "How". Many of us remember his "I Have a Dream" speech (08.28.1963).
Go back and read it some time. It is all about his vision, core beliefs, motivating values and sustaining hope—the reasons "Why" he worked tirelessly for human and civil rights. The speech inspired millions and galvanize people into action because his beliefs, his "Whys" connected with ours—whether they were Biblical understandings of human dignity and justice, or the basic tenets of American civil religion: equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Sinek's construct came to mind as I have reflected on the relationship between Temple Emanu-El and St. Philip's Parish. In the beginning, I believe Rabbi and I had an intuitive sense that our congregations held a lot in common at the "What" level. Several years ago Rabbi and I taught a course on the Rituals of Our Lives. Sam's comments on the importance of food after the ritual drew smiles from Episcopalians, and reflections on the importance of food in our community's life. In fact, I know several churches named after St. Peter who have given themselves the nickname, St. Eater's. When Sam and I were working on the itinerary for the 2012 Holy Land mission, I noted how important a visit to a Golan Heights winery would be for Episcopalians, Sam smiled and said, "Jews too." At a deeper, more serious level, what our traditions do is to produce people with strong ethical and moral compasses, who engage in many ways for the betterment of society, and who have a sense of stewardship of creation. As a small symbolic example, just look at our parking lots. You have a solar array, we have a solar array.
The 2012 Holy Land mission helped me to see and understand that we share a great deal at the "How" level. We are both people of prayer, of personal prayer and corporate worship, of ritualized and orderly liturgy, of a careful balance and blend of tradition and innovation. Both of our traditions rely on sacred Scripture for insight, direction, wisdom, and perspective. The Anglican expression is that "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary unto salvation." Both of our congregations emphasize and put lots of resources into education, or as we often call it, formation—you of devout and faithful Jews, we of devout and faithful Christians. We both approach this as a life-long process that shapes and gives direction and meaning to our individual, family, and community life. As I mentioned a moment ago, we have traditions and rituals that punctuate the significant transitions of our lives—at birth, at adolescence, when forming life-long partnerships, and at the time of death. Many of the actions, symbols and words differ, but some are familiar to both and resonate in the deepest part s of our being. When members of your youth groups reflect on their experience of worship at St. Philip's, we often hear remarks about the familiarity of some of the prayers. Towards the end of the 2012 Holy Land mission, I celebrated Holy Communion. At the beginning of the Prayer of Consecration were these words:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest .
After that service one of the Temple participants asked me, "did you get that Holy, holy, holy thing from us?" Indeed we did .
All of the ways we share "Whats" and "Hows" are interesting and helpful in drawing us into a closer and deeper relationship. But, I think Simon Sinek would suggest that these are not enough to build relationships of deep mutuality and loyalty. So, we get to the heart of the matter, to what I want to call the "Why Factor". As you probably know, there have been deep divisions among Christians for centuries, but in 1982 major denominations came to agreement on our central act of worship, Holy Communion. In this historic agreed Communion liturgy, are the following words:
Blessed are you, Lord God of the universe,
you are the giver of this bread,
fruit of the earth and of human labor,
let it become the bread of Life.
Blessed are you, Lord God of the universe,
you are the giver of this wine,
fruit of the vine and of human labor,
let it become the wine of the eternal Kingdom .
I am guessing these words have a familiar ring to you. More important than the familiarity of the words is the fundamental acknowledgement of the Creator of the universe and the source of all life. With this acknowledgement we share a profound sense of thanksgiving for our very lives and for the many blessings the Creator bestows upon us. With these thanksgivings comes a sense of responsibility for the stewardship of all creation. One of our Baptismal promises, the commitment "to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being" , probably resonates with you.
There is a sense, in both of our traditions, of the awesomeness and majesty of the Holy One. Holiness could be a separating factor, but that is not the nature of the One we know. We have a deep sense of an abiding and enduring relationship, of being cared for and loved. There is in Christian scripture a relevant reference, almost a direct quote, from Psalm 8:
What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them? You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honor, subjecting all things under their feet
(Hebrews 2: 6-7).
Would you not agree that such love and care calls for response? I think you. That is a big part of what we are doing this evening. Hear the words to one of our hymns:
All people that on earth do dwell, sing to the Lord with cheerful voice:
him serve with mirth, his praise forth tell, come ye before him and rejoice.
Know that the Lord is God indeed, without our aid he did us make:
we are his folk, he doth us feed, and for his sheep he doth us take.
O enter his gates with praise, approach with joy his courts unto:
praise, laud, and bless his Name always, for it is seemly so to do.
For why? The Lord our God is good, his mercy is for ever sure;
his truth at all times firmly stood, and shall from age to age endure .
Surely you recognize and empathize with the sentiments and beliefs expressed in these verses.
My friends, I am sure we could come up with a list of ways we are different. For example, should you come to St. Philip's with Rabbi Cohon on Sunday, you will immediately notice that the liturgical actors dress differently for worship. I do not want to minimize those differences, nor gloss over the history of what Christians have done to Jews, but I hope that you would hear and see that at the core we share so much that undergirds, motivates and inspires what we do and how we do it. In that spirit, there is a verse in the Book of Micah that I love. It speaks volumes about our relationship with the Holy One, and with one another.
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice,
and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6: 8).
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace now and forevermore. AMEN. (Numbers 6: 24-26)