Today, the churches of the Logan Square Ecumenical Alliance will worship together and then follow Jesus into our community to stand and act for immigrant justice.
The LSEA is a diverse group of churches. Several are predominantly Anglo. Others are predominantly Central American, Puerto Rican and Mexican. Some worship in English, others are bilingual or Spanish-speaking. Some are first generation immigrants. Others have been in the U.S. for multiple generations. Some are undocumented, but all are citizens of the kingdom of heaven. And all of us stand in solidarity with the alien and stranger.
If you are in Chicago, come to Humboldt Park United Methodist Church, 2120 N. Mozart at 12:30 pm to join our Palm Sunday Procession to Palmer Square (Sacramento and Palmer) where we will pray, chant and call our city leaders to strengthen the Welcoming Cities Ordinance to ensure that ALL communities are protected from harassment and aggression by ICE agents or the Police. Together, lets show our “Stranger Love.”
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”
Tomorrow, we celebrate Palm Sunday, the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem amid the shouts of his followers. “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Jesus’ first public action in Jerusalem was to cleanse of the temple of those who were buying and selling in the outer court–an area called “the Court of the Gentiles”. Jesus reminded the religious elite that the temple was not just a place for insiders–but for outsiders. All nations were invited into God’s presence, but with the marketplace, there was no room–and no welcome–for the alien and the stranger.
Questions for Reflection
Would a person of another religion be welcome in your faith community? Do you think they should be welcome?
What “Not Welcome” signs do you consciously or unconsciously put up around people who are “alien” to you? To your faith community?
“Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.”
There are two groups in this passage–the saints and the strangers. The saints are fellow-believers, members of the Church, insiders. The strangers are not saints. The strangers are outsiders. And here they are side by side in a larger passage about genuine Christian love (see Romans 12:9ff). Both are to be shown care in the midst of their need. Christian love demands it.
Questions for Reflection
Some politicians (including the president) have proposed that Christian refugees should be given preference over non-Christian refugees? Do you agree or disagree? Explain.
Are you more likely to support organizations that focus their attention on Christians in need or organizations that are not specifically faith focused? What guides your decision?
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Throughout the morning of September 11, 2001, 39 international flights were diverted to Gander, Newfoundland, Canada as a part of the shut-down of airspace over the United States following the attacks on the World Trade Center. The 10,000 residents of Gander were suddenly inundated with almost 7,000 complete strangers–passengers and flight crews. Over the next several days, the tiny town opened their homes, businesses, and resources, providing food, housing, clothing, medicine and emotional support for the incredibly diverse “plane people”–from Orthodox Jews to Moldovan refugee families who spoke no English.
The story of gracious hospitality and uncommon kindness is now a Broadway musical, “Come From Away” which opened on March 12, 2017. One reviewer, Jennifer Vanasco of WNYC, described the show as “a love letter…to what people can do if they set aside fear and hate.”
Questions for Reflection
How would you want to be treated if you were suddenly stranded in a strange place?
Why do you think the kind of hospitality Gander residents showed is so unusual and rare?
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus responds with the familiar story known as the Good Samaritan–the outsider Samaritan who shows kindness to the insider Jewish traveler who has been attacked by thieves. The Samaritan is the neighbor. The lawyer probably didn’t appreciate the direction of the story.
Questions for Reflection
Watch following video:
Are there any groups of people you struggle to see as “my neighbor?” If so, who? How can you open up your circle of inclusion?
The women of Moab are left like homeless birds
at the shallow crossings of the Arnon River.
“Help us,” they cry. “Defend us against our enemies.
Protect us from their relentless attack.
Do not betray us now that we have escaped.
Let our refugees stay among you.
Hide them from our enemies until the terror is past.”
The people of Moab have been under attack by a stronger enemy. Their cities have been leveled and the warriors have been killed. The survivors (mostly women and children) have had no other option but to flee their homes, taking whatever possessions they can carry with them. But where will they go? Where will they find safety? Who will open their doors and welcome them?
This is the plight of refugees. They can only hope that someone will be merciful and kind. They can only hope that there will be someone who will weep with them and then take action to protect them.
Historian Richard Breitman has chronicled Otto Frank’s painstaking efforts to seek refuge in the U.S. to protect his family from the Nazi’s Final Solution. At every turn, he was frustrated despite having business connections and family in the U.S.. His application was denied multiple times. Later, he, his wife and two children were arrested and sent to a concentration camp where all but Otto were killed. Otto Frank later published his daughter, Ann’s, diary. She died at age 15.
Question for Reflection
A poll taken on January 20, 1939, asked Americans if the U.S. government should allow 10,000 children–many of them Jewish–entry into the U.S. to be cared for in American homes. 61% responded “NO.” Why do you think there was an unwillingness to help?
How would you respond to those who now say that we should not allow Muslim refugees into this country?
According to Scott Arbeiter of World Relief, a refugee resettlement agency, there are currently 65 million displaced people in the world. Over 21 million people have fled to a different country, making them refugees. (Image the entire population of Illinois and Wisconsin moving to other states!) There are more refugees today than at any other time in history–and it’s getting worse. Every day, 35,000 people flee their homes.
Many of those fleeing end up in refugee camps where they will remain for an average of 17 years! And only 1% of refugees will ever resettled outside of the refugee camp. Currently, there are 2.7 million refugees in Jordan, 2.5 million in Turkey, 1.6 million in Pakistan and 1.5 million in Lebanon. By comparison, the United States has received 800,000 refugees over the past 16 years! And this year, by the president’s Executive Order, the total number of refugees allowed into the U.S. this year will be reduced from 110,000 to 50,000.
Though we often project the image of the U.S. as a compassionate country who welcomes refugees, the reality is that we resettle less than .024% of refugees.
At the end of Lent (April 15), Kimball Avenue Church will receive donations to help settle a refugee family in the Chicago area in conjunction with Refugee One, a Chicago resettlement organization. If you would like to make a contribution toward this project, please use the “Donate” link at the Church web page. (It will direct you to PayPal. Please indicate that your gift is for Refugees 2017.)
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
In a recent webinar on the issue of the church’s relationship to refugees, Hanibal Rodriguez of Wheaton Bible Church spoke of the disconnect many Christians have between the “idea” of the image of God being stamped on all human beings and actually “seeing” the image of God in them–especially those who are markedly different from themselves racially, ethnically, economically–and especially religiously. This separation of theology from practice can lead us into the dehumanizing treatment of others (cursing them). On the other hand, actually “seeing” God’s image in others will lead us toward compassion, humility, and justice.
Questions For Reflection
When have you found yourself failing to “see” the image of God in others? What have been the consequences of that failure?
How can you improve your ability to “see”?
Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you broke down my door, pointed a gun in my face and shot me.”
OK, Jesus didn’t really say that, but that is what a Chicago family experienced at 6:20 am on March 27, 2017, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents entered their home and seriously wounded a 53-year-old father. Here’s the problem: ICE agents had come to arrest someone in the house (not the man who was shot), but everyone who lived there was documented. The family has lived in the home for almost 30 years. ICE agents claim the man had a gun–a claim the family denies.
A Chicago City Council committee unanimously voted last week to renew Chicago’s status as a “Sanctuary City” which would prevent the Chicago Police Department from cooperating with ICE and other federal agencies. However, the measure does not prevent ICE from conducting raids on their own and allows cooperation under certain circumstances.
Question For Reflection
It is experiences such as this that make all immigrants and citizens of color so nervous. What actions could people of faith take to protect immigrants from these kinds of situations?
Is your community a “sanctuary” for immigrants and refugees? HERE is a list of all cities, counties and states identified by the Department of Homeland Security.