Their World Could End on 7/22/17

For 50,000 plus Haitians, July 22, 2017 is Doomsday.  That is the date when their TPS, Temporary Protected Status, is set to expire, putting them at risk for deportation back to their native country of Haiti.  They were given protected status following the devastating earthquake that destroyed much of Haiti in 2010.  Their status has been renewed every 18 months since then, but it is set to expire–and there is no guarantee that the current administration will renew it again.

Read more on the story from the LA Times HERE

Given what we’ve learned from our Lenten “Stranger Love” Fast from Xenophobia, what action do you think would be Biblically and morally just?

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What Protected Status?

Supposedly, children who came to this country with their undocumented parents are protected by DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program initiated by President Obama and affirmed by our current president.  That didn’t stop ICE from deporting Juan Manuel Montes, a 23 year old student that has lived in the US since he was 9 years old.   Read the entire account HERE.  This is why NO ONE feels safe.

“Stranger Love” Beyond Lent

While Lent is concluded for 2017, the struggle for immigrant and refugee justice continues.  Across the nation, people of faith took to the street during Holy Week in solidarity with individuals and families that are being threatened and targeted by ICE.  In Los Angeles, 35 faith leaders were arrested on Good Friday as they blocked the entrance to the local ICE detention center in protest of recent raids that have broken apart families and heightened fears throughout immigrant communities.

See the full story HERE.

Easter is a celebration of God’s power over death.  But death in its myriad forms is still present in the world.  The risen Christ sends his disciples (including us) into the world to confront the powers of death with the gospel of life.  Easter is not a time to discard our protest signs and retreat back into the security of our pre-Lent routines.  It is time to be emboldened and go forth.  Jesus lives!  God’s new creation is begun!  God’s people are empowered to live as Jesus did–with “Stranger Love.”

Christ is risen!  Christ is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Easter & Love for Strangers

On this Easter Sunday, we rejoice in new hope, new beginnings, new life in Christ.  Just as Christ has been raised, we too have been raised with Christ to live into the kingdom of heaven where we practice love for God and love for our neighbor.

While we celebrate, we remain aware of the stranglehold death still has in the world.  Palm Sunday was a reminder of how believers are dying for their faith.  The attacks on Syrian children were a reminder of how tenuous life is for those in the midst of conflict.  The ICE raid that resulted in the shooting of a legal Chicago resident was a reminder of how vulnerable immigrants are even when they follow the rules.  Then ‘MOAB’ fell from the sky, destroying a mountain and everything (and everyone) on it and in it; the mission was hailed a success.  But resurrection is a call to the faithful to choose life and give life to those who face death daily.

We have fasted from xenophobia; we have feasted on love for our neighbor.  And today–Easter–we will choose love and choose life by collecting funds to resettle a refugee family in the Chicago area through Refugee One.  If you would like to contribute to this provision of new beginnings, link to the “donate” icon at www.kimballavenuechurch.org.

Let resurrection be real in your life and in the lives of others through you.

Read the story of Somali refugee Saciido Shaie, who began a new life in Minneapolis in 1992.  Then, let’s make resettlement a reality for another family in need.

Day 40 – Stranger Love

We are completing the journey. More than 40 calendar days ago, we started moving toward “stranger love.”  Along the way, we learned that God’s love is indeed strange–it goes beyond all boundaries; it crosses borders; it refuses to categorize and marginalize.  And God’s strange love that embraces the alien and the stranger calls us to embrace them as well.  When we love as God loves, it makes us strange to those who want to maintain the lines of division and distinction.

On this Easter Vigil, take some time to review God’s activity in your life over the past 40 days.

Here are some questions to ponder:

What have you learned about God’s love for the alien and stranger?

How have your views of immigrants and refugees changed?

What has grieved you during these past 40 days?  What has encouraged you?

How will you continue the journey away from xenophobia and toward xenophilia beyond Lent?

Consider sharing your journey with others who have participated in “Stranger Love.”

Day 39 – “Stranger Love”

Today is Good Friday.  Today, we mourn the state-sponsored execution of our brother, Jesus.  And today, we remember the thousands of others who have died as a result of draconian state policies.  In the last 15 years, more than 2500 bodies have been found in the desert of Pima County, AZ.  The men, women and children had crossed the US border to escape poverty, drug and gang violence, hopelessness.  Because of restrictions on immigration from Mexico, crossing the desert was the only way to enter the US.  Their bodies now lie in the desert, with no one to bury them, remember them, mourn them.

Today, we mourn them.  Today, we remember the thousands of others who are at risk.  Today, we seek forgiveness, burying our heads in our blood-stained hands.  Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Day 38 – Stranger Love

Ephesians 2:11-18

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Unless you are Jewish, you are Gentile–even if (as a male) you are circumcised. And as a Gentile, you were “separate,” “excluded,” and “foreigners.”  But Gentile status has changed as a result of Jesus, who “destroyed the dividing wall” at the cross.  Now, there is no longer Jew or Gentile, but a new humanity–a new creation.

It has often been observed that once an immigrant group has been accepted into the mainstream community, they become the most vocal opponents of letting others in.  Sadly, this dynamic can also be seen within the Christian community.  In the United States, Protestants have been the wall builders and gate keepers of faith, determining who is “included” in the kingdom and who is “excluded.”  Sadly, we have failed to live into the new reconciled humanity God formed in Christ.

Today is Maundy Thursday

On this day, we eat a meal in commemoration of Jesus’ death–his broken body and his shed blood.  We remember that through Jesus, though we are many, we are made one.  We remember that we are the Body of Christ made up of diverse parts.  So today, as you partake in the broken body and shed blood of Christ, pray for unity.  Pray that any remaining dividing walls will be broken down.  Pray that together in Christ we will experience the reality of reconciliation with God and peace with one another.

Day 37 – Stranger Love

Acts 10:15, 28, 34-35

The Voice spoke to [Peter] a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

[Peter] said to [Cornelius]: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean….  I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”

It took a thrice repeated vision from God to get Peter to see the truth about God’s inclusive plan.  It was a mind-blowing revelation.  NO ONE IS IMPURE OR UNCLEAN!  GOD WELCOMES THE ALIEN AND THE STRANGER.

Not everyone got the vision, and inclusion of Gentiles remained a controversial issue within the nascent church.

Questions for Reflection

Marisol was kicked out of her church because of her sexual orientation.  Barbara was excommunicated from her church because she divorced her husband.  Evan was barred from working with his church youth group because he participated in a Pride parade.  George was told not to attend church unless he covered his tattoos.  Javier left his church after the pastor said that all Muslims were going to burn in Hell.

What would you want to say to these individuals?  What would you want to say to the leaders of these churches?

How does Peter’s “enlightenment” challenge your own perceptions of who is included and who is excluded?  Do you think anyone is excluded from God’s welcome?

Day 36 – Stranger Love

Mark 7:18-22

“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.

For the religious elite of Jesus’ day, purity determined who was “in” and who was “out”.  Those who ate unclean food, failed to perform the ceremonial washing rituals or ate with unclean people were “impure” and therefore were considered “outsiders”.  Jesus, who was often considered “impure” because of the company he kept and his choice of eating companions, challenges the separating lines by (in Mark’s statement) declaring all foods clean.

The food issue kept Jews and non-Jews from socializing, interacting or accepting one another.  Food was the line in the sand.  And when Jesus erased the line, suddenly there were no barriers to keep Jews and non-Jews apart.   There is a place at the table for everyone who pursues justice, righteousness and peace from the heart.

Questions For Reflection 

Interaction between those who perceive themselves as superior and those designated as inferior has always been regulated and strictly enforced.  Consider the “colored” drinking fountains and the “whites only” lunch counters as examples.  Those who erase the lines through their actions risk condemnation and even physical harm, but they also shake the foundations and change the world.

What cultural lines still exist that are meant to exclude and define the “other?”  What action could you or your faith community take to erase one of those lines?

Day 35 – Stranger Love

Mark 4:35-5:1

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.

Jesus and his disciples voyage from Capernaum to “the other side”–the region of the Gerasenes.  Gerasa was part of an area known as Decapolis, 10 cities that had been taken away from the Jewish people by the Romans and resettled.  In order words, Jesus not only crosses the Sea of Galilee, but crosses the border between Jew and Gentile.  And he went there on purpose.  It is not the only time that Jesus crossed over into Gentile territories by sea or by land.  And each time he crossed the border, he brought blessing: A man is delivered from “Legion”, 4000 are fed bread and fish, and a Greek woman’s daughter is healed.

Ched Myers interprets these crossings as Jesus demonstrating his determination “to bring liberation to those on the ‘other side’ despite their cultural and political differences.” (Our God is Undocumented p. 126)  In crossing borders, Jesus affirms that the Kingdom of Heaven is a multi-national, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural phenomena and that entrance into the kingdom is not limited to an elite few.

Questions for Reflection

How do you think the disciples felt about crossing to the other side–knowing where they would land?

Have you ever felt uncomfortable with how “inclusive” Jesus is?  If so, why?

Ched Myers interprets the “great windstorm” as the cosmic forces of evil that want to throw Jesus off course, so that the dividing lines of hostility will be maintained.  Jesus rebukes the wind and the waves and continues his mission to unite Jews and Gentiles in the Kingdom of heaven.  What do you think of his interpretation?