The ICAN of Contra Costa County, which has hosted many Earth Care and will be doing three Planet Friendly Food programs this program year, encourages Contra Costa Religious leaders to do a sermon series in the lead up to the Global Climate Strike Sept. 20-28.

Below are the letters some of the ICAN Committee members have written to clergy in their traditions, offering reasons why they would like to hear messages in their Synagogues, Mosques, Congregations and Temples.

To make this packet easier to read, here is a small table of contents. If you do not wish to read all the letters, you may find the letter closest to your religious tradition is the one you most want to read.

A. To Temple Isaiah Rabbi (Lafayette) from Jackie Garcia Mann for TI Environmental Action Team, ICAN Committee
B. To Imam or Islamic congregation leaders from Kathryn Qahira Santana, ICAN Committee

C. To Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist (Walnut Creek) minister Marnie Parker, Chair of the Green Group of MDUUC, ICAN Committee
D. To Lafayette Christian Church from Jan Warren, Convener of ICAN Committee meetings

Some are planning one week’s message, others are planning a series in September through October. Whatever you or your congregation do, we’d love to be able to share the messages shared here on the ICCCC website. Sermons helps are at California Interfaith Power and Light corner/sample-sermons/.

One congregation has already responded, with Rabbi Alissa Miller at Temple Isaiah finding a message in their regular weekly readings on water:

Shabbat Shalom from Rabbi Miller
Friday, July 19, 2019/ 16 Tamuz 5779
Parshat Balak: Numbers 22:2 – 25:9
In this week’s Torah portion, Balak, the King of Moab, asks Balaam, to venture over to the Israelites’ encampment and curse them after he sees their great size and might. Balak knew little about the Israelites and had no intention in getting to know them. He simply feared them because of their great size. Balaam was simply following orders. He too knew nothing about the Israelites and never questioned Balak’s request. He was ready to curse the Israelites, but when he arrives at their tents, God open’s his eyes. With his eyes wide open he has a new perspective and more complete picture of the Israelite community. Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell explains, “Only when the Holy One open’s his eyes can Balaam… [see] the tents that are the homes and the gathering places of the women, children and men who live in community marked by care and mutual respect.” With his eyes wide open he has greater insight into the whole of the Israelite people. They are no longer just a large group of people. They are individuals just like him. Balak wants him to curse the Israelites. However, with this new perspective, when he opens his mouth to curse them, he blesses them instead.

We often see only what we wish to see and not necessarily what lies in front of us. Our eyes are often closed; unaware of what is happening around us. When we close ourselves off from the many beautiful and holy things that happen around us every day—the taste of the food we eat, the smile of a loved one, the wisdom of others—it is much easier to curse the people around us through complaints and hurtful actions.  

To be a Jew means to wake up and notice the details.  The Baal Shem Tov advised that every Jew should make 100 blessings a day.  One hundred times we are supposed to open our eyes and reflect on the bounty the world holds for us. One hundred times we are to pay attention to our surroundings and express gratitude. One hundred times we are to put down our phones, look away from our screens and express thanks for the people standing by our sides. Whether we recite one blessing or one hundred blessing each day, this experience can heighten our awareness of the wonders in our daily lives and help us respond to them with gratitude. It also gets us to slow down and pay attention to what is really going on around us. 

On this Shabbat let us be inspired by Baalam. Let us not only open our eyes to the world around us and express gratitude for the beauty that surround us. Let us also open ourselves us to new possibilities, new perspectives and new opportunities for connecting to the people around us.  

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Alissa Miller

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