Saturday, September 7, 2013

Prayer for David and Goliath

The following is a non-denominational prayer I offered this morning for the 80 Walmart workers nationwide who say they were illegally retaliated against for going on strike this summer against the corporation for better pay and working conditions and more dignified treatment. It was given outside the Walmart store in Chelmsford, Mass., and dedicated to David Coulombe, a Walmart employee there who was given a reprimand and a cut in hours for his participation in the strike.

Before I offer this prayer, let me speak the truth to power. Walmart is not God. Walmart is acting like Goliath. We do not want to be like Goliath. We want to be like David. Today we are with David. Today we are all David. And like the ancient hero of Israel, we face Goliath without heavy armor, without powerful weapons. We do not have money or great wealth. We have each other, and we have the power of love.

We do not seek anything for ourselves. We seek peace. We did not seek this conflict, but we do not fear it, either. We have not come to curse anyone. We come to offer a blessing.

Let us join together in a spirit of prayer.

We gather as persons of many faiths and of no faith, but however we believe, we gather as one people.

And whatever our beliefs, whatever our religion, we know there is something sacred about this assembly today.

Whether we believe in one God who is all good, or we believe in no God at all, we remain united in our work for the common good.

And whatever our belief about God, we know this much: greed is not our God. Injustice is not our God. Walmart is not our God.

In many of our churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples, we call one another sister and brother. In our union halls and worker centers, we call one another sister and brother. Today, in this assembly, we call David Coulombe and the Walmart 80 our brothers and sisters.

And today, with the hope of God's blessing, we ask the manager of this Walmart to recognize David as a brother. We ask the manager of this Walmart: Treat David as your brother, treat him as you would want to be treated. He has done you no wrong. Take back the punishment you illegally and unfairly imposed on him.

And to every Walmart manager we say: Pay all your workers fairly. Give all of them a living wage and the chance to work full-time. End the intimidation and the silencing. End the retaliation, for it is not holy.

And we call out to the executives and board members and shareholders of Walmart: Change, change your ways today. It is time to do business differently. It is time to do business generously. It is time for a new Walmart.

Finally, we ask Walmart to stop saying that we the people who speak out have no connection to Walmart. This is our community! You are in our community! Your workers are our brothers and sisters! Your business is our business. And for God’s sake we will not be silent about this business, and we will not keep still until we see the vindication of our beloved community.

And so today we call out to God—to a God who is present in the cry of the poor—and we call out to the absence of God—for where there is no justice, there is no God. Spirit of God, be upon us and anoint us to preach the good news to the poor. Empower us to do your justice, love your kindness, and walk humbly with you. Gladden the hearts of David and the Walmart workers and unharden the hearts of their managers. Help us stand with David through these trials until the seeds we sow here in peace are harvested in justice.

We ask for this in the name of all that is holy. And I ask for this in the name of the God of Israel, the God of Jesus, the God who casts down the mighty and lifts up the lowly, who fills the hungry and sends the rich away empty, who brought down Goliath and raised up David.


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