Immigration and love lights from outer space
November 16, 2014
First Fruits celebration
For First Mennonite Church of Denver
©Vernon K. Rempel, 2014
You shall make this response before the Holy One your God: “A wandering Aramean were my ancestors; they went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there they became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the One God, the God of our ancestors; and God heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. Then God brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Holy One, have given me.” You shall set it down before the Holy One your God and bow down before the Holy One your God.
Homeland Security/ICE Detention Office
God loves the immigrant.
God reminds the children of Israel
that they were immigrants.
That’s why they share the first fruits of their labors.
They have milk and honey.
And the “set it down” before God
because they too were once travelers.
Our nation is not so sure of this narrative.
I have been to the ICE and Homeland Security office
twice now, helping to advocate
for detained immigrants.
Both times, I’ve done something wrong:
One time stood on the wrong side of the line
I was just trying to stay out of the way
Another time, used my cell phone in the wrong place.
But the first time, I delivered 100 signatures
on behalf of Together Colorado.
The day before, we had stood outside
in freezing rain, a hopeless,
small huddled group
Prayer for a young man who was
going to be separated from his family.
But the prayers and signatures and the presence
made a difference. Javier Gallegos Rosales was given a stay
on his deportation.
The judge herself said our efforts made a difference!
In my fevered imagination
I could see the dementors circling
ICE and homeland security
But it turns out it was the love of God.
Love is caring for the immigrant
I’ve been reading
Christians at the Border: Immigration, the church, and the Bible
by Denver Seminary Old Testament professor
It is a remarkable book.
For one thing, he is bringing the gospel
of what he sees as God’s deep care for the immigrant
to often-conservative folks
who have been living in a Christian milieu
that tends to say what we need is “law and order”
and stronger borders
For another thing,
he writes as if God is a alive and moving among us
with care for us and care for immigrants
So it is not only a presentation of an idea
about how to respond to immigrants.
It becomes a matter of describing the action
of a loving Spirit
whose action may lead us.
It does this through an excellent presentation
of Biblical material from Old and New Testaments
and also with a review of our nation’s history
of response to immigrants
including our immigration laws.
All very well, and good to read.
Then he makes this very focused, challenging statement
which just knocks me over
every time I read it:
It’s about our response to the immigrant:
“to cling to a chosen lifestyle and schedule, define the permitted parameters of a neighborhood, and monopolize time just for oneself and one’s family to the exclusion of the stranger— any stranger— might be rebellion against God and an ignoring of something dear to him.” (p78 or loc1565)
Read it again…
I have been preaching a lot about love
in the tone of Richard Rohr and Parker Palmer
and Mary Oliver and all these good
inclusive and poetic folks
This statement is surely a part of that:
read it again:
Love is having a heart for such response
for such action
Professor Carroll will be sharing with us on February 22,
by the way, as part of a winter series on immigration
put together by our Women Bridging Borders initative
We are pledging today for the financial support
of this faith community.
Why would we want to pledge?
This is one reason:
Because in this community,
we are invited and even asked to respond
to the immigrant, and in other ways
Here are some places of work connected with
our faith community,
just waiting with God’s heart for love
Already mentioned Women Bridging Borders
Also Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program
With it’s very straightforward mission statement:
“To keep our kids out of jail by restoring relationships with self, family and community.”
Mennonite Economic Development Associates:
Folks who invest money in ways intended to
Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection
bringing young people to the city
to get a perspective on mission, ministry,
poverty, and urban joy
DWELL – the year-long voluntary service
associated with DOOR
Mennonite Central Committee
the great relief and development arm of
the Mennonite and associated denominations
Mennonite Voluntary Service
for seniors and young people
Casa de Paz
by the ICE Detention Center
with Sarah Jackson
Talk to Ann Leonard or me about this
faith-based community organizing initiative
The Abrahamic Initiative, the Mosaic Foundation,
Wisdom House, the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado
all working for interfaith collaboration and goodwill
I know and love the leaders of all these organizations
and they are all available for participation
in many ways large and small
The Catholic Worker and associated homelessness ministries.
Our current outreach coordinator Marcus Hyde
lives and loves and works
at the Catholic Worker House
According to our children and youth pastor Tory
research shows that children and youth who have done
service work with their families
are the most likely to continue to connect with
and relate to their faith communities
So: service forms us
And it is of the heart of God.
Read Danny Carroll and you will see it well-described.
Love is lights from outer space
Just so you know what you’re in for in this next secton
I’ve entitled it
“love is lights from outer space”
There are always stories about mysterious lights
appearing over cornfields in Iowa
or Illinois or Indiana,
on of the Midwestern “I” states
The person is just going about their ordinary
Midwestern business, maybe making
tuna casserole with potato chips crushed on top
or checking culverts on the county road.
And just then, lights will appear,
right outside the kitchen window
right beside the truck
Maybe your just going for a walk
under the vast star-scattered mid-western sky
the immensity of inter-stellar space
distant but also curiously seeming as close as
as the hand you lift to point out
And suddenly, there they are,
red, green, blue lights,
and they’re moving fast
They hover, sometimes they track along with you
just like a bird flying in formation
the dip and weave and bit,
and then, as if gravity is an irrelevant force,
they slide dizzyingly upward
and in a moment they are gone.
Those mysterious lights,
what if they really were a presence from beyond,
a visit from the vastness,
and therefore a filling of the solar loneliness
of the human race
What if there really was a presence out there
as lovely as the lights are reported to be?
Oh, of course it could be sinister, could be a scouting group
from some vast invading alien army
waiting to wipe out are planet
and recolonize it with sentient
creatures with tentacles?
But what if not?
What if it were beauty? What if it were love?
How cool would that be?
What if it were the divine immigrant
come to care for us,
the one who always comes to us
and is always already with us
That is the Holy Spirit.
That is the love of God
That is Gabriel, and the backside of God on Ararat,
and the voice in the silence to Elijah,
and the light on Paul’s Damascus road.
A sense of a real presence
not just a projection of inner psyche,
or wishful thinking or magical thinking
but real presence from out there and in here
real presence that announces itself to our hearts
by way of our imaginations, yes
but also by research, and thought,
and toughness and gentleness
and thought and feeling
and heart and head
Maybe it feel real because it is real.
Presence on that amazing moebius strip that seamlessly links
what’s in our hearts with the heart of the universe.
That sense that there’s a greatness out there
just waiting to connect
That there’s a greatness in here, just waiting to connect
Oh, and when it connects, that’s the moment
the lights go on
and we realize our place in the universe
how connected we are to love
how connected we are by love
to all people, all creatures
To the great Spirit of love who is God
to the immigrant
to others in this faith community
where we gain orientation and encouragement for life
well-lived, and which connects us to and incubates
so many works for good.
That’s why we might pledge,
attend, care, connect, love,
pray for each other
That and so much more.
So much that we might call it the First Fruits of heaven.
Let us receive this love.