Soren Scott Henderson, we baptized you today as a beloved child of God, precious in our Creator’s sight, made in the likeness and image of God. Just like all the children, like every baby. We have declared that you are free from sin and death, united with Christ in his resurrection, a member of the church – and you don’t know it yet – but you are called to be part of Christ’s ministry of love, peace and justice.
You are lucky. Some might call it blessed – although I want to be careful using “blessed” language because it leads some to think about the “unblessed” and I don’t think there are ANY unblessed children in this world.
You are lucky because you were born a white male, in this country, to a mother and father who love each other, who are educated, who have the resources to educate you. They will never have to support you and perhaps a sister or brother on minimum wage or work two or three jobs to feed you. You will not be ridiculed for being poor. Even if you go to the inner-ring suburban public schools you will probably be in the AP classes, you will get the summer jobs, you will probably not go to jail before you are 21, you will probably not have a child with a woman you are not married to. You will have privileges that you don’t even know you have. Your father and mother will not have to give you the talk about how to respond to police if you are walking home after dark, or driving in some neighborhoods.
You will never have to leave your country and cross borders, or pay a “coyote” to guide you away from your parents living in countries overwhelmed by violence and chaos only to be screamed at and turned away – to become a bargaining chip in political games of who can be toughest on illegal aliens.
Soren, you are making this really hard on me. For it’s hard to think about these things when you are so dear and cute and you didn’t ask for any of this. And we love you, we love your parents, and we will do all that we can so that you make it, so that you succeed, so that you grow into the gifts that God has given you…so that you become a man of compassion, of sacrifice, thinking more of others than yourself – a man of God, a follower of Jesus Christ.
Jesus said: “Llet the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”
After protesters shouting “Go home!” turned back busloads of immigrant mothers and children in Murrieta, California, a furious Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the Roman Catholic Bishop of New York, sat down at his notepad and drafted a blog post detailing his shame at the episode, writing, “It was un-American, it was unbiblical; it was inhumane.”
When the governor of Iowa, Terry E. Branstad, said he did not want the migrants in his state declaring; “We can’t accept every child in the world who has problems,” clergy members in Des Moines held a prayer vigil at a United Methodist Church to demonstrate their desire to make room for the refugees.
In our country the response to the arrival of tens of thousands of migrant children, many of them fleeing violence and exploitation in Central America, has been angry pushbacks from citizens and officials.
I remember seeing on TV one women shouting at the immigrant busloads of children: “Jesus Christ didn’t break any laws.” Well, ma’am, read your scriptures because Jesus did break laws – it is what got him killed.
Thankfully, it is the church – not the President, not the politicians – it is faith leaders and faith communities – of every denomination and tradition – Christians from the Left and from the Right (yes, Southern Baptists and Evangelicals who are leading the way!) Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims – who are coming together.
As Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention said: “This is not simply a political crisis, but a moral one…the anger directed toward vulnerable children is deplorable and disgusting…. These children are made in the image of God, and we ought to respond to them with compassion, not with fear.”
I love what Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference said: “I remember when my fellow evangelicals said ‘Deport them all, they’re here illegally, end of story.” “There is still angst in the pew, but if they listen more to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and less to Rush Limbaugh, they’ll act with compassion towards these children.”
Yes, listen to Jesus’ words in Matthew. Listen to Leviticus (and who reads Leviticus?!?) God is very clear: “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself…”
And then here is the kicker: “for YOU were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.” Yes, indeed, we all came from somewhere – I assume my great grandparents from Germany were legal.
Politicians will rage and stage photo-ops, or stay away from them. Candidates will posture and read the polls. And I do not belittle the complicated issues related to immigration reform in this or any other country.
But – whatever your party, whatever your stance – let this be clear: Our job as Christians is to welcome the little children and treat the alien as one of us. Christ came to break every barrier down. No longer “…Jew or Greek, no longer slave or free, no longer male or female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
Yes, Pedro and Fatima, Richard and Sharika, Amal and Tamar, Amos and Catherine, Maria and Tony – Soren and Sophie – you and I – are all beloved children of God, made in the likeness and image of our creator. In Ephesians 2:19 Paul writes:
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.”
The blessed tie that binds us together in Christ should be stronger than our patriotism.
And again in Philippians 3:20: “But our citizenship* is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
So while we are anticipating our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ’s return – let us act as if we know who we are waiting for… and love the children, all the children.
In fact following the Mayors of Denver, Syracuse and Milwaukee – why not Cleveland? Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell has invited the children to his city. Why don’t we bring the children here – maybe to Forest Hill? Why not? We’re good with children!
Soren, who knew that Baptism was a radical act?
You are marked forever.
You are part of a large family of resident aliens, citizens of another country, a member of the household of God that extends beyond borders.
Let the children come unto me!”
Thanks be to God.