February 19, 2017

Imigrants

Epiphany 7- Year A

A Sermon Preached by The Rev Ian M. Delinger


Last  week I put our readings in the context of Mosaic Law, and in doing so,  illustrated the contextual difference between the Laws in Leviticus and  those in Deuteronomy. In focusing on justice for the widow, the orphan  and the resident alien, I chose not to look at the overlap in the Laws,  and of course, there are. The circumstances of the Hebrew people were  very different when Leviticus was written. We can see, though, as I  emphasized last week, there is a thread throughout the Bible which  confirms that God has great concern for the poor and the marginalized.  

 

When  you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges  of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not  strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard;  you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.

 

Perfect for talking about helping the homeless – a week late!

 

God has a concern for the
weakest in society, and God is
also concerned with fairness
between persons.

 

It’s kind of like God knew that some people would be opportunists with the free will that they were given!


Yes, there are  opportunists among us! And that’s not all bad. Innovation comes from  the opportunists. When an opportunist is bad is when they strive to  benefit to the detriment of others. That includes using one’s power and  status to construct a system which structurally marginalizes certain  groups of people so that those in the ruling classes can continue to  amass power, wealth or both. I firmly believe this is what is happening  in Washington and in at least 25 states with one-party control.  


I’m  not trying to be a melodramatic about the political situation, nor am I  consuming fake news or heavily-skewed news. My genuine concern is that  the chaos in Washington and the legislative actions being taken in some  parts of the country are creating environments in which the suffering of  the masses will be real, will be structural and will be considered  legal and legitimate. While politicians may have found ways, or be  looking for ways, to make the suffering of their people legal and legitimate, there is widespread agreement in the Christian communities that their actions are not Christian.


Numerous sources are calling upon the American people to take action when they become aware that real injustices are happening.  For those of you on social media, you might agree that there is such a  frenzy of politically-charged material being thrown out there, from both  the left and the right. It’s difficult to know what to believe and how  to respond. Like I said last week, we need to pay attention to what it  going on, and we need to respond.


Jesus is very resolute about  how

we are to respond to those who

threaten us. He is very clear

when  He says, “Do not resist

an evildoer.”


We are to take on those who  threaten justice. But He gives us a different way to do that. When we are fighting for what is right, for the protection of the marginalized, the difference we can make as Christians is to do it in love, not through hatred or war.


We  don’t need to take up arms to fight injustice, just as those who are  promulgating the injustice are not taking up arms. As they take up their  pens to sign damaging legislation, we can stand together for a common  cause that gives a bigger voice. Many are writing postcards to their  legislators; some are making phone calls; others are taking to the streets – silently but with a loud voice.


Last  weekend was a nationwide movement called “Stand with Planned  Parenthood” in response to the potential cuts of Federal monies for the  health services that Planned Parenthood provides to men, women, children and families, particularly  those who are not insured. Whether or not you support the services  provided by Planned Parenthood, the movement they organized last week is  an example, I think, of the type of peaceful resistance Jesus is  describing in today’s Gospel reading. Here is the description of last Saturday’s event:


What we have created here is not a counter-protest. We will in no way engage with or respond to the anti-choice protestors. [This is a] silent demonstration. And silent means silent.


It was silent solidarity; COLLECTIVE silent solidarity which made a huge impact across the country, with the silent-but-loud voices of hundreds of thousands of people across the country.


Similarly, on Thursday, many businesses around the country actively participated in a national “day without immigrants”. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants who are part of what makes America work like a fine-tuned machine, including cooks, carpenters, plumbers and grocery store owners, did not show up to work to highlight the enormous value they contribute to society. This a peaceful way to have a loud voice. Some creative examples:

  • The  Davis Museum at Wellesley College removed or cloaked 120 works of art  that had either been created by an immigrant or donated by an immigrant —  about 20 percent of the museum’s display.
  • Chicago celebrity chef Rick  Bayless closed several of his restaurants and said he would give a  portion of the revenue from the ones that remained open to an immigrant  and refugee rights group.
  • In Austin, only 60% of students attended in a district with 10 schools with 5,000 students. Usually the attendance rate is above 98%.


Last Saturday and Thursday were real-life examples of how Jesus is calling us to face adversity. And some of these issues should resonate with St Stephen’s. In the 1970s, a member of this congregation, Joyce Pillow,  was instrumental in helping pregnant teenagers when no one else would  and the school kicked them out. And we currently have immigrants who doctors, nurses, teachers, administrators and musicians.  


There are strong theological messages in Jesus’ discourse as well as practical actions. Jesus, in this passage, calls  us to mimic his own suffering. He instructs us to avoid violence, to  not resist evil, to endure being slapped and having clothes taken, and  of serving the authorities. In this instruction, Jesus is foreshadowing  the events leading up to His own death. As Jesus goes to trial and to the Cross, He, Himself does not engage in violence and does not resist evil, He is struck and beaten, His clothes are taken and lots cast for them, and His cross is carried by Simon of Cyrene upon the instructions of the Roman soldiers.  


Jesus is calling us to not only use what we have to fight injustice, but to give what we have for the sake of the good. Through Matthew the Gospel Writer, we are being called to demonstrate that our thoughts and words are congruent with our actions. And that is an imitation of Christ – which, as I have said before, has nothing to do with being nice. Imitating Christ has everything to do with standing up for “liberty and justice for all”.


So, here we are in a climate of political chaos and divisions between friends and families,  

 

  • all while being presented with the foundation of our faith in the Mosaic Law to care for the marginalized,  
  • and the call to “passive resistance” as a powerful and effective means of not only not resisting evil, but to overthrowing injustice,
  • and in doing so, imitating Christ in His mission to bring Humanity closer to God.


In  not resisting evil through our “passive resistance”, in standing up for  justice and dignity for all people, Jesus also calls us to love and  pray for those same people we are resisting. Why? Because if we love even our enemies, then there will be no one who will not be loved.


And love is the ultimate purpose

of Humanity:  To love God and

to love your neighbor.

© 2017 St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
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