Remarks from Pastor Michael Hidalgo of Denver Community Church on April 13, 2021
In 1953, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “… we all suffer from an ego-centric predicament. Our soul tends to confine itself to its own ideas, interests and emotions … it is precisely the function of prayer to overcome that predicament, to see the world in a different setting. The self is not the hub, but the spoke of the revolving wheel. It is precisely the function of prayer to shift the center of living from self-consciousness to self-surrender.”
I begin with these words as we gather together to contemplate what it will look like for people of faith, people from the Great Wisdom Traditions, to pray and to act in UNITY on behalf of our civic leaders. And we do so today, alongside one another, in a time marked not by unity, but in a time rife with great division. We see this in our local and federal government, it exists in our houses of worship, it is in our neighborhoods and, EVEN in our homes.
In the midst of this division, the wisdom of Heschel may illuminate for us a path forward: that we, through prayer, would overcome our ego-centric predicament; that would be those who shift the center of living toward self-surrender. It is this way of life we see modeled by Jesus on the night he was betrayed, when he went to a place called Gethsemane, and fell with his face to the ground and prayed: “Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” In this short prayer recorded by the gospel writers we witness the kind of shift, the kind of surrender, Heschel spoke of. Jesus surrenders, saying to God, “I am up for whatever you have in mind.”
If we are to be, and become, those who pray and act in UNITY - then we must be those who agree to move toward self-surrender. To be those who hold the power and authority given us with open hands, recognizing all that we have, all that we possess is a gift - a grace bestowed upon us. And should we become those inclined to self-surrender, those who live with open hands, then we will be those who are able to act together for the common good.
We will become those who act TOGETHER in a way that transcends our collective ego-centric predicament- AND I MIGHT ADD - in a way that transcends our partisan-centric predicament, our agenda-centric predicament, our policy-centric predicament. Maybe then, we, along with our civic leaders, will become those who learn to see we are only spokes on a revolving wheel - each invited to do our part in seeing the common good take root in our city, in our state and in our country.
This invites us to transcend merely agreeing to disagree or only working toward compromise or seeking common ground. Rather, the invitation is to give ourselves over to prayer, so that we may be transformed into those whose center of living is self-surrender, those willing to give everything for the sake of our world. Those willing to say to God, “I am up for whatever you have in mind.”
May it be said of us here today, that we were those who prayed and acted on behalf of our civic leaders. And may it be in that order. That we were first those who prayed. And only then, were we those who acted. For then our actions will reveal hearts of self-surrender, and in that place we will find - even amidst our culture of division - people from all walks of life working alongside one another. In all the holy name of God, may this be so.