This week marked the third anniversary of the mass murder at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018. I was asked to do the Chalice Lighting at the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry the next day. The topic for the morning was sanctuary. I threw away what I had carefully prepared. I was planning on reading this new poem instead which was totally inadequate to the situation but due to a scheduling mix up, I didn’t read it that day. Instead, I read it for the first time a year later at the Tree of Life Coffee House at the church. The poem also referenced other ugly, hateful episodes the same week.
Sanctuary in a Very Bad Week
Trump Attempts to Erase Transgender Identity
Two Blacks Killed at Walmart by Angry Racist
14 Bombs Sent to Targets Denounced by Trump
11 Dead at Tree of Life Synagogue Mass Murder
Sacred shelter—A haven offered or sought,
a holy obligation and a desperate resort.
The Church once offered it to those fleeing
the wrath of a king or war lord.
Today we are called to offer it to
immigrants and refugees,
the homeless and unwanted,
the despised of color, gender, faith,
abused women and families,
all the wretched.
Know this—Sanctuary can fail.
Ask Thomas Becket, Ann Frank,
the four little Girls of Birmingham,
the frozen bum,
the murdered wife,
the deported asylum seeker,
the immigrant children in cages,
the dead Jews of Tree of Life.
But failure does not cancel hope or duty.
time to step up,
to take our chances,
to become a People of Sanctuary.