The sermon begins at the 23 minute mark.
One evening last week Lisa Vahey told this story at the meeting of those who volunteer their time to be with Leonor, Adan and Louis Mario as they live with us in Sanctuary. She shared with us that often she takes Adan (who is four) to the Stone Oven on Lee for a cookie. So Adan and Lisa enter Stone Oven and apparently there are two tables filled with Forest Hill members and Adan goes right up and says hello, starts working the crowd as only he can. He knows people that Lisa doesn’t. And as she completed this story she became choked up and said: “Adan feels at home in this world, he feels welcomed!”
I contrast this with the stories I heard yesterday at the rally on Public Square.
“Los ninos de Corsos” – the children of Corsos, the landscaping business where ICE agents lured undocumented workers with donuts and coffee and then arrested them. The children, “los ninos” many of whom are American citizens, some of whom worked at Corsos alongside their parents, others who were at home enjoying summer vacation who either saw or got the news of their father or mother being taken.
I contrast the story of Adan with stories of those children separated from their parents at our border. And now that I know Leonor and Adan and Louis Mario and Eric and Margaret I can’t get the picture out of my head if it were them at the border, them being separated, Adan being caged.
We shouldn’t block that vision or our imagination – they can help us get real.
But then again we should not block our imagination from picturing another scenario of the beloved community where all children are welcome and we don’t succumb to the epithets and incivility and laws and executive orders that play on our worst fears.
This morning we are going to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist – and the Invitation and the Great Thanksgiving that you will hear and we will share is a welcome to all:
This is the joyful feast of the people of God. People will come from the East and the West, the North AND the South to sit at table at the Kingdom of God.
Hermanos y hermanas, Esta es la fiesta jubilosa del pueblo de Dios.
Mujeres, hombres, jovenes, ninos y ninas, Que venga todo el mundo!
Las Escritas dicen que la gente vendra del norte y del sur, del este y del oeste,
Para sentarse a comer in el reino de Dios.
And the pray after the Great Thanksgiving reads:
Praise to you, O God, for all your works. You created the world and called it good and made us in your image to live together in love. You made a covenant with us, and even when we turned from you, you remained ever faithful.
We have to use our imagination shaped by what we believe God is calling us to be and do and then pull ourselves towards that vision.
I am reminded of a story that someone told me about what sailors do when they are stuck in the middle of the Lake and there is no wind at all to catch the sail and move then towards the shore. I was told that what is done is that you lift your anchor – heavy as it is – and you move it back and forth until you have enough momentum and you let it go in the direction that you want to head and then you pull yourself towards the anchor.
Well, Jesus Christ is our anchor, and the Bible is our anchor, and the faith of the saints is our anchor and sometimes we have to throw it out ahead and pull ourselves towards the shore of justice and hospitality and grace and we have pull ourselves towards it – when there is no wind of equity, and there is no wind of welcome – and we have to pull ourselves when we are beset by the doldrums of madness and oppression.
And as we head towards the middle of the week and we celebrate the founding of this nation – we have to ask ourselves: “What have we become?” “Have we lost our imagination of those first founders?’
Have we lost our imagination of Frederick Douglas and WEB DuBois and Dr. King whose ancestors did not immigrate but were chained and brought here through the middle passage – and yet still had the vision, the grace, the imagination to foresee the best that we could be – the “better angels of our nature” as President Lincoln put it?
Have we lost our minds? Our hearts? Our hope?
I believe we know what is the Christ thing to do. Although it has become a partisan issue – this issue of welcoming the stranger, and treating the alien as a resident, and allowing the children to “come unto me,” is not a Right versus Left thing, rather it is a right versus wrong thing. It is a Christian versus a heathen thing. It is a biblical versus…an I-don’t-know-what-to-call-it thing.
And when Attorney General Jeff Sessions uses Romans 13:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities…those authorities that exist have been instituted by God” to defend zero tolerance and treating everyone at the border as a criminal.
then we, the people of God with the imagination to move towards the vision of the beloved community, have to remember the prophet Isaiah, who, in chapter 10 wrote:
Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil and that you make the orphans your prey!
And I know that all sides that claim the Bible as the source can find verses to support their position. But I have to tell you that from the first breath of God in Creation to the last vision of God coming to be with his people – drying tears and standing in the midst of the New Jerusalem, I cannot find any biblical justification for what is happening in our country now.
I am reminded of what Dr. King, wrote in his letter from Birmingham Jail to challenge white clergy folk who were getting nervous with King’s use of the Bible in calling for justice, and shaking up the status quo, while these clergy folks used the bible to maintain the status quo.
In fact several of Dr. King’s harshest critics used that same verse in Romans that Attorney General Session used: don’t criticize and certainly don’t protest against the secular authorities and the laws of the state.
And Dr. King wrote this: “any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”
And Dr. King wrote these words grounded on the grandest of biblical truths that all humans are made in the likeness and image of God and therefore worthy of equal treatment, compassion and safety, due process and justice.
The Bible teaches us to make room for everybody – but it is pretty clear that God and therefore we must have special regard for the outcast, the oppressed, the poor, the alien, the marginalized.
The first words of the Bible offer a magnificent way to walk through each day: In the beginning God creating – yes even your formless void is the stuff of divine intention. So I believe that God is still creating and calling you and me to create with her.
I can’t read the bible any other way than through this dynamic of an ongoing living relationship with God who yearns for the day
when the lion lies down with the lamb,
and we study war no more,
God calling all the children home,
when there will be a new heaven and a new earth:
See the home of God is among mortals,
God will dwell with them, they will be his people
The whole creation groaning for reconciliation,
steadfast love and faithfulness will meet,
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Yes, you can find other verses too – but what God will you serve?
At this time in our history as a nation, use your imagination, and let us pull ourselves not to the border wall of separation, but toward the shore of welcome that the Bible and our Lord Jesus Christ demand that we pull ourselves towards.