May Day and Mother Jones
Welcome to Today's Worship Service
May 2, 2010
Open your Bible
Light a candle
It is Well With My Soul
Matthew 5 (New International Version)
The Beatitudes1Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2and he began to teach them saying:
3"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Salt and Light13"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Arcana Coelestia (Potts) n. 6819
6819. But not only is man in the singular the neighbor, but also man in the plural. For a society, smaller or greater, is the neighbor; our country is the neighbor; the church is the neighbor; the Lord's kingdom is the neighbor; and so above all is the Lord. All these are the neighbor who is to be benefited from charity. These also are ascending degrees of the neighbor; for a society of many is the neighbor in a higher degree than is an individual man; our country in a higher degree than a society; in a still higher degree the church; and in a still higher degree the Lord's kingdom; but in the highest degree the Lord is the neighbor. These ascending degrees are like the steps of a ladder, at the top of which is the Lord.
MOTHER JONES AND MAY DAY
Happy May Day week-end! Did you know that yesterday was May Day? Did that have any particular meaning for you? It is a day that has been celebrated for a variety of reasons for many generations.
When I was a girl in Illinois, we gave May Day baskets to our friends. The idea was to put a basket of flowers and candy on someone’s doorstep, ring the bell, and then run away before they could see you.
This tradition probably goes back to the pagan roots of May Day. For the Druids of the British Isles, May 1 was the festival of Beltane; one of the most important festivals of the year. A common May Day custom was lighting a new fire, to encourage the return of the sun.
When Romans occupied the British Isles, they used May 1st to worship Flora, the goddess of flowers.
They had a five day celebration, and gradually the rituals of the Floralia were added to those of the Beltane. And many of today's customs on May Day are similar to those combined traditions.
In the Middle Ages, every English village had a May pole.This probably originated in German paganism as a fertility rite. People would dance around a live tree. Over time, two types of pole dancing emerged: dancing in a circle around a tall pole, and holding ribbons on a smaller pole, and intertwining them into some pattern. A folk dance, the Morris Dance evolved in England and is often performed on May Day.
INTERNATIONAL WORKERS’ DAY
Throughout the world, many people honor May Day as a time to honor labor and trade unions. It is called International Workers’ day in many places. This is because of what happened in Chicago on May 1st, 1886. Labor unions called a strike for the eight-hour work day. After two days of striking, a fight broke out between workers and police, and the police killed two workers. So on May 4th, there was a huge protest rally at Haymarket Square; claiming the police had murdered workers. Thousands of people were there, and someone threw a bomb at the police, killing one. The police began shooting into the crowd, killing 11 more people.
Many of the wounded were afraid they would be arrested if they tried to get medical attention. A controversial trial of sorts followed, in which 8 were tried for their political beliefs. Eventually 4 anarchists were hanged. Around the world, people were outraged about the Haymarket incident.
This period in the history of Chicago was quite fascinating. We have already talked about the Swedenborgian architect Daniel Burnham who was an up and coming architect in Chicago. Seven years after Haymarket, the Chicago Worlds’ Fair would open.
Burnham can be seen as an example of a person whose highest value in life was to be of use. He is an example of a Swedenborgian who fully lived his faith.
Today I want to talk about another person during this period. This was not a Swedenborgian, but she shared Burnham’s passion for using one’s life to make a better world. She did it in a different way.
Mary Harris was born in Ireland in 1837. She came from a family of social agitators, and her father may have had to flee the country to escape death from the British. In any case, the family came to Canada when Mary was 4 years old.
Mary went to school in Toronto, and graduated from the normal school in 1854 at the age of 17. She taught briefly, and then moved to Chicago to b a dressmaker. She then to Tennessee to teach. She met and married George Jones, an activist in the Molders’ Union. They traveled together, doing union organizing.
Mary and George were happy, and had 4 children. But tragedy struck in 1867, when her husband and all the children died in a yellow fever epidemic, within a week of each other. She returned alone to Chicago to again be a dressmaker. But only 3 years later, in 1871, she lost everything in the Chicago fire.
This woman lost her entire family, and then all of her possessions. Yet, instead of becoming discouraged, she considered what it was like for her to work in the homes of the rich:
"Often while sewing for lords and barons who lived in magnificent houses on the Lake Shore Drive, I would look out of the plate glass windows and see the poor, shivering wretches, jobless and hungry, walking alongside the frozen lake front.... The contrast of their condition with that of the tropical comfort of the people for whom I sewed was painful to me. My employers seemed neither to notice nor to care."
After the great fire, Mary began to attend meetings of the newly formed Knights of Labor, and her deepest passions were struck. She continued to work as a dressmaker while she did volunteer organizing. She traveled around the country, living in tents with the workers. There is a story that during a strike, a miner had his head bashed in. She held his head as he died, and he called out to her as “mother.” After that, she became Mother Jones.
When asked about where she lived, she said:
"My address is like my shoes. It travels with me. I abide where there is a fight against wrong."
The May Day riots became so important to her, that she arbitrarily changed her birth day to Mary 1st. And to add to her “grandmotherly” image, she added 7 years to the date she was born.
Mother Jones’ welcomed African American workers and involved women and children in strikes. She staged parades with children carrying signs that read, "We Want to Go to School and Not to the Mines."
She would say to people: "I'm not a humanitarian. I'm a hell-raiser!” Once a preacher criticized Mary for holding a union meeting in "a house of God." She said:
"Oh, that isn't God's house. That is the coal company's house. ... God almighty never comes around to a place like this."
Although Mary was raised Catholic, she felt the organized church had abandoned the revolutionary values of Jesus; a position similar to Swedenborg’s. She often spoke of Jesus as an organizer of the poor, saying he chose to die rather than betray the poor.
In 1903, to dramatize the need to abolish child labor, she led a caravan of striking children from the textile mills of Kensington, Pennsylvania, to President Theodore Roosevelt's home in Long Island, New York. They carried banners saying "We want time to play!" and "We want to go to school!" The president refused to meet with them, but the "Children's Crusade" caught the public's attention. She is quoted as saying:
"The employment of children is doing more to fill prisons, insane asylums, almshouses, reformatories, slums, and gin shops than all the efforts of reformers are doing to improve society.”
She was a rousing and inspirational speaker. She often said: "Rise up and strike ... strike until the last one of you drop into your graves. We are going to stand together and never surrender. Boys, always remember you ain't got a damn thing if you ain't got a union!"
She died in 1930, shortly after the celebration of her 100th birthday.
A radical magazine called “Mother Jones” was started in the 1970’s and named after her. Pete Seeger believed that the folk song, “She’ll be Comin’ around the mountain” was about the travels of Mother Jones. Gene Autry recorded a song by an unknown author about the death of Mother Jones in 1930.
What can we learn from this remarkable life?
She fully lived the passion in her heart.
She wasn’t afraid to stand up for what she knew was right
She never got discouraged – even in her early days when she lost her entire family and then all of her meager possessions.
Like Daniel Burnham, her live is an example of one who lived to be useful to others. We don’t know if Mother Jones had even heard of Swedenborg. But we can see in her life, a shining life shaped by efforts to put Love and Wisdom to practical uses in life.
Most of us are not nationally-known figures fighting every day for justice. But we all have lives that can have the same impact as hers; we just don’t know how much we are shaping our world. Swedenborg tells us that everything is connected to everything else. If you do something out of love for another person or an animal, or the environment; you have an impact on the whole. Mother Jones, later in life, could look back over her many years and she the powerful impact she had on society. Most of us don’t know what impact we’re having on the world. The smallest gesture of kindness could has a ripple effect on the holographic wholeness of the universe.
So how will you honor the rest of this May Day week-end? Perhaps you can take time this afternoon to relax. As you sit back, reflect on all the ways that Divine Love and Wisdom were alive in Mother Jones. She found the strength to persevere, even after losing her husband, all of her children, and then all of her possessions. She lived for her deepest passions. Because of efforts like hers, we can take for granted the 8 hour work day . The things we do today – no matter how small they seem – have the power to make life better for others; even future generations. Let her inspire you to never get discouraged, no matter the obstacles … to reflect on your uses in life … and then perhaps to dance around a may pole, or give flowers and candy to a friend. And rejoice at the return of the sun to our hemisphere.
This Little Light of Mine
Go in peace, celebrating the renewal of all life.