immigration

Holy Immigrants

The story of Joseph being sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt begins by telling us that his father, Jacob, had just brought the family back into the southern region of what is today Israel. Geography is important, here. We have this typical family: father, two wives, two concubines, twelve sons, a couple of daughters, including Dinah who is in the kitchen with somebody, and a mess of sheep. Everybody crosses the Jordan River at night. They come across the border illegally, or at least in fear for their lives, because Uncle Esau plans to do them harm. Jordan at this point looks remarkably similar to the Rio Grande at El Paso.

It is important that you not think that I am importing today’s immigration debate into the Bible. Joseph’s story begins on this note because the people of God are constantly in motion. Some, like Jacob, Moses, Naomi, Elijah, Daniel, the baby Jesus, and the apostle John, leave their homeland as refugees. At the border, there is often tears. Exile is an common element in the biblical story. Compassion for pilgrims and travelers is foundational to biblical ethics. Those nativists, whether they wear white robe and burn crosses, or Armani suits, have not studied their Bible if they think possession is 9/10ths of God’s law.

Sunday, August 13, 2017
Pentecost 14

The Nature of Our Nation

A wandering Aramean was my father...

The Old Testament scripture that calls us to confess, “A wandering Aramean was my father...” seems a strange place to begin Lent. I always associate Deuteronomy 26 with Thanksgiving and turkey, but it makes a cool contrast to Luke 4 where Jesus is starving in the wilderness. Lent is a good time to wrestle with the big questions of life and to fast for long enough to get a more spiritual perspective on it all.

 This Lent, lets begin by traveling outside the walls that usually separate church and state and pray a hungry prayer for our political circumstances. There are three questions that we need to ask about our community and nation.  Deuteronomy 26 provides an unexpected answer to each:

Q1) What is the nature of our nation and our civic life together?
A1) We are wanderers. We are a people formed from former slaves, immigrants, and dispossessed native Americans. We started as a weak few, storm tossed and fragile. Now in our state of luxury, we dare not become isolationists or build electrified border fences. Lent should whack us out of social self pity and “let them eat cake” attitudes. 

Q2) What external circumstances should we be aware of?  
A2) The world is a place where oppression is common. In the midst of history, God has acted to take us as a people out of slavery and made us to be a nation. In this land that we did not build or win for our selves, God has made us secure. We have found milk and honey. 

Q3) How then should we live? or What is our vocation as a nation? 
A3) We should enjoy our abundance and be thankful.  We should offer up our due tithes and join in worship. We should invest in the world; do justice, love steadfastly, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

Sunday, February 17, 2013
Lent 1
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