A Prayer for the WCL Class of 2018

The following was delivered as the invocation at the Commencement Ceremony for the American University Washington College of Law.

Blessed are you O Lord, Our God, ruler of the universe,
     who has granted us life, who has sustained us,
          and who has helped us to reach this season
, [1]
     “who executes justice for the oppressed;
          who gives food to the hungry.” [2]

In your grace, you have given us the Law
     and instilled in our hearts a desire for justice
          tempered by mercy.
     In pursuit of the knowledge of law
          these graduates have long labored
               (and perhaps long suffered)
          and come now
          to the end of their studies.

We gather this day to celebrate and give thanks:
     Thanks for this day and the gift of life;
     Thanks for the friends and family who have come
          from near and far
     Thanks for this University,
          for the faculty and staff
               for their instruction
                    their mentoring and guidance
                    their example and testimony;
And most of all, we give thanks for these graduates:
     for the gifts with which you have blessed them;
     for the blessing they will be to a world in need.

Help them—
     Indeed help all of us who have taken on the calling of the Law
     To remember the purposes
          for which the Law has been put forth,
          the task to which we have been summoned

On this Festival of Shavuot,
Let us hear the words spoken to us in your Torah:
     “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” [3]
and hear the words proclaimed by your prophets:
     to “seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the
          orphan, plead for the widow.” [4]

On this Pentecost Sunday,
Let us hear the words of One who reminded us
     not to neglect “the weightier matters of the law:
     justice and mercy and faith.” [5]

On this Fifth Day of Ramadan
Let us hear the words brought by your Messenger:
     “Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves.” [6]

And so, Author of all Righteousness,
     that in a world of injustice
          our graduates might be agents of justice;
     that in a world of division,
          they might be agents of reconciliation;
     that in a world of conflict,
          they might be agents of peace;
     that in a world of unfairness,
          they might be agents of equity;
     that in a world where the voices of so many are drowned out
          they might with their advocacy amplify those voices;
     that in a world in which so many are pushed to the margins,
          they might through their work draw all to the center.
     that in a world of rising authoritarianism,
     and in a world of rising chaos and disruption
          they might be agents of that ‘ordered liberty’
          that binds your people into a free and just society.
     that they may work for a world in which
     “justice may roll down like waters
     and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” [7]

And now, O God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, [8]
Send them forth in love and wisdom,
     with the boldness of vision
          and the fearlessness of hope,
     so that in all things they may testify to that hope
          in a world in need of their witness,
          now more than ever.
And let us say: Amen.


[1]Traditional Jewish prayer, the Shehecheyanu.

[2]Ps. 146:7

[3]Deut 16:20

[4]Is 1:17

[5]Matt 23:23

[6]Qur’an 4:135

[7]Amos 5:24

[8]From, the traditional Islamic blessing, the Bismillah.



A Prayer for the Class of 2017

Winter Commencement, December 17, 2017

O Source of all Life,
The days of our lives seem to slip past
with ever increasing speed,
Too easily falling into the shadows of the past.

For that reason, we pause at the milestones of our life’s journey
that we might reflect,
that we might give thanks
before the day is consigned to memory.
And so, today we give thanks
for all that has been,
all that has led us here to this season.

For the families and friends
who helped to form our graduates
as they set out on this adventure years ago.
For the learning they have undergone in this place,
for the faculty who brought instruction,
for the staff who supported them in their need,
for their willingness to be open to new experiences,
new understandings.
For the friendships and the relationships that sustained them,
the times of joy and sorrow,
of triumph and defeat.
For all the threads of experience
that have been woven into the tapestry of their lives.
For all this and more we give you thanks.

O Source of all Light,
we gather this day
on one of the shortest days of the year,
when the night is long
and the darkness deep.
When worries about the world
and the troubles of an anxious time seem to weigh heavily upon us.

But here, today,
in this season of lights in the darkness,
and on this fifth day of Hanukkah,
we kindle another light.
For before us, robed in blue,
stands a bright light of hope,
shining out into the world.
And as it is with the turning of the year,
so too will this light only increase.

O Source of all Hope,
We pray your blessing upon our graduates and give thanks for all that will be.
For the difference our graduates will make,
For the creativity they will offer,
For the gifts they will share,
For the wisdom they will continue to acquire,
For the passion they will bring,
For the imagination they will employ,
For the fearlessness with which
they will face the future
For witness they will make
to justice, to peace,
to inclusive community;
For the way they will change the world itself.

And now, O Most Gracious, Most Merciful,
we pray that
in the times of injustice,
they may be just,
in times of fear,
they may sow love,
and in times of darkness,
they may be beacons of light.
And let us say: Amen.

A Prayer for the Class of 2017

Screen Shot 2017-05-13 at 9.56.19 PM

Image courtesy wordle.net

O Great Mystery,
 We have traveled a long road
To bring us to this day.
Here at this crossroads,
     at this way station,
we pause to reflect
     on the road behind us,
     and the road ahead.

We thank you O Lord, Our God, ruler of the universe,
     who has granted us life, who has sustained us,
          and who has helped us to reach this season, and this point of the journey.

As we pause, we give you thanks
For this moment
     For the day and the life-giving rain,
     For the celebration of mothers,
          and of the gift of life and love.
     For the celebration of accomplishment
          with family and friends;
     For the pomp, the circumstance,
          the skirl of the pipes.
     For the joy of the day
          and the celebration of the moment.

But here, in this moment,
     we also look back on the road behind us,
     and we give thanks to you,
‘God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way…’

     For the journey our graduates set out on years ago
     For the learning,
          the growth,
          the openness to new experiences,
               new understandings
          the faculty who brought instruction,
          the staff who supported them in their need
          the semesters abroad, the internships downtown
     For the friendships, the relationships,
          the late nights
               the deep conversations,
               and the not-so-deep ones
     For the times of joy and of sorrow,
          of triumph and defeat.

We know that the way has not always been easy,
     At times, stony has been ‘the road we trod,’
     and our feet became weary.
     We have seen tragedy and grief,
     Injustice and hate,
     Long borne pain, welling up again.
But on that stony road,
     we have also found traveling companions
     who have borne us up
     who have walked together in solidarity,
     who have fought for justice,
     who have lived out love,
     who have embodied compassion,
     who have affirmed our common humanity,
     and our common journey, together.
This is the ‘hope that the present has brought us.’

And so, in that hope, on this day we give thanks
For the road ahead,
     For the difference our graduates will make
     For the creativity they will offer
     For the gifts they will share
     For the wisdom they will continue to acquire
     For the passion they will bring
     For the imagination they will employ
     For the fearlessness with which
          they will face the future
          and the many challenges it will bring
     For witness they will make
          to justice, to peace,
          to inclusive community
     For the way they will change the world itself.

And so, O God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful,
     who walks beside us on all the roads of our lives
     we pray that in all their journeys
     they may continue to be
     beacons of hope and promise
          to a broken world
               a world in need
               a world waiting for them.

And let us say: Amen.