Why People Need Power
Sunday, September 3, 2006 – Labor Day
Deuteronomy 24: 14-16
many churches could you attend on Labor Day weekend and participate in the
blessing of a brand new labor union? What a special Sunday this is for
I want to talk this morning about power.
early 1990’s I was the pastor of a church in the heart of
Industrial Areas Foundation, IAF, founded by Saul Alinsky, was helping
churches and synagogues in the greater
five of us traveled together to
One of the things I learned was the definition of power. The word “power” comes from the Latin word poder, meaning “to be able.” Literally, power is to be able to make something happen.
I learned that power is a good thing. It is good to be able to make something happen. In fact, I was taught that power is so good that everybody ought to have some. And power, I was taught, comes from two sources: organized people and organized money.
Power comes from organizing.
celebrating this Labor Sunday the beginnings of a new union here in
We are also celebrating all the people who have worked and sacrificed throughout the years to organize themselves in order to improve their lives and their communities – labor unions, associations, cooperatives, community organizations, and collectives.
celebrating this because organizing is very Methodist. A popular book about
the Methodist movement in
John Wesley, the Anglican priest, who began the Methodist movement 270 years ago taught that there is no holiness except social holiness…that is, we can not think that we are holy in our personal lives if the society we are part of does not practice justice and mercy. “All holiness is social holiness,” Wesley taught. You can’t be holy without working for justice in the society.
We heard some of the United Methodist Social Principles about collective bargaining read this morning.
be 100 years ago next year that a group of Methodists got together here in
This group of Methodists proposed to the Methodist General Conference of 1908 the Methodist Social Creed which called for the abolition of child labor, the end of sweat shops, the conciliation of labor disputes, and a living wage. Our first Methodist social principles were passed in 1908.
since then, the
Power comes from organized people and organized money. Power is a good thing, so good that everybody ought to have some.
We also celebrate this new union and all people who organize on behalf of their own welfare and the welfare of the community because it is biblical. It predates John Wesley and Methodism.
The Bible has consistently taught that God is offended by the abuse of working people. “You shall not withhold the wages of the poor and needy laborers,” Deuteronomy says. If you do it is the Lord who will be offended. The first great organizer was Moses. The Bible also consistently teaches that we shall not mistreat the immigrant or the stranger in our midst.
A manifestation of the Holy Spirit is power coming upon the people. “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon,” the Book of Acts says. (Acts 1: 8)
Power, the ability to make something happen, is a good thing, so good that everybody ought to have some. Absolute powerlessness is as dangerous as absolute power.
Elie Weisel asks us to make this commitment: to never be the oppressor, to never be the victim, and to never be the bystander. We have a responsibility before the divine who has created us to never willingly choose to be the victim. Power is a good thing. Everybody ought to have some.
But we know from the biblical story and from our own experience that organizing is not easy. It requires long hard meetings after long days of work. It requires traveling across the city on buses and trains to get to meetings. Jana has told me about people who travel for an hour each way to participate in organizing. It requires saying “no” sometimes when all we want is a day’s work. It requires thinking about tomorrow as well as about today.
We are very proud today of the Union de Trabajadores.
We are a better community because you are exercising the power God has placed within you. We are a better nation and a better world because of you.
Power is a good thing…it is a God-given thing…it is so good that everybody ought to have some.