God stands with the outcasts, the hungry, the poor, the sorrowful. God is sobbing because her child is stolen from her, taken away, lost. God is crying because his only son was murdered by the authorities for peacefully seeking a better life.
At our southern border today these stories are in the thousands. People that came to our country in desperation have arrived to only be cursed, imprisoned, have their children taken in many cases to never be returned. When I see this news, the same news we all get, I think of how far away it is, how little I can do…
But the truth is it’s happening in our own state.
God is with Rachel who is here, in central Ohio, because her husband attempted to kill her with acid and burned off most of her face.
God is with Daniel who is here, in central Ohio, because he witnessed a crime gang murder his older brother. And now they want all the witnesses dead.
God is with Joshua who is here, in central Ohio, because he wants his little children to grow up where they don’t have to dodge landmines.
These are different names, but these are real people living only minutes away from us, not just some distant story on the news.
These are the people we are putting into concentration camps. And we have work camps.
What’s going on at our borders is controversial; some people focus on protecting our wealth, our jobs, our safety from strangers.
Others focus on what is being done to protect those borders. Children taken from their parents with reports of them being beaten, raped, and even killed through sheer neglect. Children whose only crime was to have parents think Americans were honest in our desire to help the helpless.
Many people that feel ‘We’d like to help, but we have problems of our own’.
I think most of us see these stories, and meet these people, and KNOW bad things are happening this very moment…
But what are we to do?
No one in this room is personally harming a refugee or immigrant.
Yet the politicians we’ve chosen have decided our taxes will pay the salaries of the people doing this, pay for those prisons, and now will likely pay for an eight billion dollar wall.
As a country we stopped reading our Bible and instead have chosen bits and pieces of it that tell us prosperity is the right of Christians.
We stopped living our faith. Our faith that says in all ways we are to be salt for the earth – a flavoring, a blessing. Not a curse hateful of others.
When God sent Jesus, God sent our savior born of a refugee. An immigrant. A woman and man who traveled seeking a better life for the child.
God sent Jesus born into a family like yours or mine. A normal family. With brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. A messy family.
God sent Jesus born to share our common lot. To know what it is to be human. To know blessings – honor – and woe – shameful times.
God sent Jesus to stand not in Rome among the honorable, nor the honorable of occupied ancient Israel — but to stand level with the poor, the deported, the huddling masses considered shameful, embarrassing, undesirable, and sinful.
Luke wrote his gospel to people like us. It is addressed to Theophilus who is a citizen of the ruling people. Much like we are citizens of the ruling people. And Theophilus was part of the popular religion. Much like we are. And Theophilus generally always knew where he would get his next meal, where to rest his head, and whether or not his relatives were alive, and safe. Much the same with us.
Luke writes to Theophilus to tell him why this impoverished foreigner Jesus came to Theophilus, too; and why Theophilus needs Jesus.
Why we NEED Jesus.
We NEED Jesus because of the torture of innocents. We NEED Jesus because of our faith being corrupted, turned into a weapon, and used against our own Christian body. We NEED Jesus to open our eyes, forgive our sins, and let us begin again our life with all people in the name of Christ.
“Our salvation depends on the poor.” ((Dorothy Day))
Jesus came down and stood on a level place.
No mountain top. No pulpit. No temple on the hill. Jesus came DOWN from heaven and stood right in the middle of earth – in the muck, with the common people, with the throng, with those in the cheap seats.
And around him came a great multitude a people. A huddling, starving mass. Jesus came and was with those no one else wanted.
Our Statue of Liberty speaks of us as the promised land, as a heaven on earth, where all are welcomed. All are equals. All are honorable. At the foot of the Statue of Liberty is a plaque with words we’ve aspired to live:
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Are we hypocrites? We place Lady Liberty on a pedestal and forget her. We forget we are the children and descendants of wretched refuse, refugees and immigrants, who yearned to breathe free.
We place God on our money and forget God sees the love of money as the root of all evil.
Forget God does not care for lip service but cares for justice.
God does not care how we treat the honorable but God deeply cares how we treat the least of these, the least among the world.
We say we’re Christian as we live in a manner only Satan would love – a manner that loves ourselves before all others.
As a country, we are forgetting who and who’s we are.
Jesus said… “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” You have traded heaven for money.
“Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.” You are physically comfortable now, but starving your soul.
“Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.” For when Jesus returns, and we feel the full weight of our sins and separations, we will tear our clothes in anguish and cry out inconsolable.
“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.” When you’re called such a good Christian, such a good citizen, such an upstanding member of society… woe to you because you’ve sold yourself to the false prophets of the world and not to the True Prophets who stand with the shameful of society.
Luke is pleading with Theophilus and with us through his stories of Jesus that we give up the path of woes, and turn to the path of blessings! Of honor!
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” God lives among those who are poor! Poor of spirit. Poor of health. Poor of money. Poor in all ways. For those who know want know their need of God. Know their need of mercy and assurance. Know they NEED God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.” Those who are not satisfied are seeking. Seeking better worlds. Better ways of living. Deeper religion. Is your soul hungry? Do you hunger for justice, for a reversal that brings the low high and the high low? Do you hunger for God? You WILL be filled!
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” Laughter! The reign of God is here more every day. And it brings joy to those who weep now. Those who weep to see what we are doing at the border and weep. Those who weep to see our leaders corrupted, self-centered, warmongering and ignoring the plight of everyday people. We who weep now will find joy in God and God’s great reversal.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.” If you’re in hot trouble with your family because of your beliefs – good job! You’re doing Christianity right. If society tells you to be less radical, to be more practical, and to stop caring… GOOD. You’re doing your faith right. On account of the son of man, we should always be pressing the envelope and challenging people to live more into the reign of God.
“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.”
We’re not living for rewards on Earth.
What do we do? How do we – who are not politicians, whose letters go ignored when we write, who are not at the border, who are not affluent – what do we DO to live this narrow, outsider way our Savior leads us?
We don’t turn a blind eye. We look. We watch. We pray. We donate money to charities helping refugees and immigrants such as CRIS – the Community Refugee and Immigrant Services.
We speak. We speak on social media, to family, to friends. We refuse to continue to let the hate spread. We act as antibodies, a cure, where we are, healing the body of Christ here. Preventing the cancer from spreading.
We are here for a reason and a purpose. We are born for a time just as this. We are in the drought with too much heat but we have deep roots. Dig into your faith. Delve deep for the ever-living waters. Bring forth that new life, those green leafs, that hope. BE the church. BE the body of Christ. BE the people who have seen the goodness of God and live like it.
Blessed, honorable, are you when you are unpopular on account of your lived out faith.
Blessed are we when we let go of possessions
for the kingdom of God unfolds in open places.
Blessed are we who know the ache of hunger,
for the empty places in body and soul are the fertile soil for new growth.
Blessed are we who know sorrow,
for the ache of love lost is witness to the seed planted.
Blessed are we who know scorn,
for the rejection of humans keeps us mindful of that beyond.
Blessed are we who live in the harmony of life in the Spirit, for we will recognize abundance.
((Katherine Hawker (2004) and posted on Liturgy Outside. http://liturgyoutside.net/beatitudes.pdf))
Blessed are we who answer God’s call to love ALL.