Here is a transcript of today’s sermon, which I gave at King of Kings Lutheran in Ann Arbor. It is the first in a series that will last through July, in which I am introducing Spiritual Guides and Preachers through the sermon. Today I introduced Fr. Richard Rohr. The series is called: Can I Get An Amen?
35 Later that day, when evening came, Jesus said to them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” 36 They left the crowd and took him in the boat just as he was. Other boats followed along. 37 Gale-force winds arose, and waves crashed against the boat so that the boat was swamped. 38 But Jesus was in the rear of the boat, sleeping on a pillow. They woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re drowning?” 39 He got up and gave orders to the wind, and he said to the lake, “Silence! Be still!” The wind settled down and there was a great calm.40 Jesus asked them, “Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?” 41 Overcome with awe, they said to each other, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey him!”—Mark 4:35-41 (CEB)
Can you…imagine…if instead of trying to teach our children how to worship…
We were not able to teach them because…
They were not here.
And we did not know,
they were coming back?
In today’s Gospel, when evening had come, Jesus told his disciples, let us cross over to the other side. And those disciples had no idea, that a short time from now, having lived through the arrest, trial, beating, and crucifixion, of Jesus, they would be standing before him, in all the glory of the miraculous resurrection Jesus, and he would be commissioning them with these words:
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Nope. In today’s Gospel, they had no idea, while practically drowning in a perfect storm, that this storm would be NOTHING compared to what it would be like to be the first to preach the Gospel and to do it as immigrants into the ends of the earth.
And maybe that’s why it is not written into this gospel, or any of them, as it should be:
On that day, when evening came, he said to them: Let us go across to the other side, I’ve got a meeting there with a demoniac who has so many demons, they call themselves Legion. I know, it might make you a little squeamish, so, you can stay in the boat…but keep the “oars locked.” If you get hungry, there should be fish in the Yeti cooler right next to that cushion I sleep on.
Because I would think, since Jesus knew they would begin their ministry of the Gospel as immigrants, that they might as well get use to feeling … uncomfortable.
Fr. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, has dedicated his life to the teaching of contemplative prayer. In 1986, he felt called to establish the Center for Contemplation and Reflection in New Mexico. He thought that because of Its physical proximity to the U.S./Mexico border, Franciscan legacy (both good and bad), extreme poverty (only Mississippi and U.S. territories, which include Puerto Rico, have higher poverty rates in the U.S.), and its history of nuclear testing made it seem like a good place to live in solidarity with suffering and practice contemplative approaches to justice and peacemaking.
He writes a daily meditation that anyone can receive via email. On Friday, he wrote this:
Migration—whether chosen or forced—is a reality we must continue to face. U.S. interference in Central America has led to destabilization and violence…
The policies of separating families at the U.S./Mexico border and of criminalizing those who seek asylum are disgraceful. Throughout Scripture we see God’s mercy toward the outsider and the vulnerable. Jesus makes our treatment of “the least of these brothers and sisters” the only real criteria for the final judgment (see Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus himself was a refugee, and his life and teaching show us what it means to welcome the stranger in our midst. Without love, “law and order” mentalities too often lead to dehumanization, concentration camps, and genocide.
I challenge anyone in this entire sanctuary to find even a single reference in the entire bible in which Jesus sanctifies closing borders. The only thing with borders that Jesus EVER did, was cross them.
He crossed a legal border to stop the stoning of a woman caught in adultery.
He crossed a purity border to heal a man with leprosy.
He crossed a ritual border when he healed on the Sabbath.
And as he was crossing all these borders, he was teaching others how to do the same, by telling stories about how…
The Good Samaritan crossed a societal border to help a man broken and beaten, a man the priest in town had passed by.
The Father of the Prodigal Son crossed a cultural border when he hiked up his robes to run all the more quickly to embrace his son who once was lost, but now, was found.
Jesus very life on earth BEGAN with his parents, Mary and Joseph crossing a physical border when they fled with Jesus as an infant at the direction of an angel, making the three of them became immigrants as well.
When you listen to the story of the calming of the sea, and realize that, when we read that it was Jesus and his disciples who crossed over, we are talking about disciples who would soon become immigrants, you almost have to wonder: how could they NOT see the storm that was coming?
Well… how could we not see the storm coming ourselves?
Maybe we were just so comfortable, we fell asleep. Because…
This is where we are now. In the storm. And as storms go, this one is what they call, perfect. And that is not a good thing.
In fact, it’s frightening. And honestly it does indeed seem, that in the midst of our fear, Jesus is asleep on the cushion.
And I mean he is OUT like a LIGHT!
And yet, when he catches up with the rest of us who are woke, he will calm the storm once again because, that’s what he does. It’s in his job description.
And we don’t know what that might look like, but we can look for it to happen, because God does not break promises, and one promise I might cite here is from Isaiah 43 which reads “When you march through the waters, they will not overtake you…and through the fire, you will not be burned.”
Because while working on immigration reform is important, freeing the families that are currently imprisoned in this country for no other reason than the fact that they are immigrants, is even more so.
We will be having conversations on Wednesdays at 7pm until further notice for anyone who can come to talk about the issues facing this country. It will help us to balance the practice of both action and reflection, and it will inform our Sunday worship.
It will not be comfortable. Crossing borders never is. But we will do this led by the Holy Spirit and following the words of Jesus Christ our Lord. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but of power and love and self-discipline.
And immigrants are beloved children of God just like you and me.
On Wednesday, an estimated 30,000 youth from the ELCA, along with their adult leaders, will cross the border into Texas, the state in which tents were recently erected to house children separated from their parents at the border. Most of these youth who will attend the National Youth Gathering will take with them plenty of money, and clothing, and freedom. And while they are there, they may have an opportunity to protest on behalf of the immigrants being unjustly imprisoned in that state. It may be uncomfortable. Still, as we are reminded in the Gospel of Luke: to whom much has been given, much will be required… (Luke 12)
Rev. Jose Luis Casal, a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA who served in three countries, recently served in the state of Texas, and who, in 2017 was called to be the Director of World Mission wrote a new creed. It helps paint a picture of where our identity as followers of Jesus Christ and the identities of immigrants today, cross.
The Immigrant Apostles’ Creed
I believe in Almighty God, who guided the people in exile and in exodus, the God of Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon, the God of foreigners and immigrants.
I believe in Jesus Christ, a displaced Galilean, who was born away from his people and his home, who fled his country with his parents when his life was in danger.
When he returned to his own country he suffered under the oppression of Pontius Pilate, the servant of a foreign power.
Jesus was persecuted, beaten, tortured, and unjustly condemned to death. But on the third day Jesus rose from the dead, not as a scorned foreigner but to offer us citizenship in God’s kingdom.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the eternal immigrant from God’s kingdom among us, who speaks all languages, lives in all countries, and reunites all races.
I believe in the Church as the secure home for foreigners and for all believers.
I believe the communion of saints begins when we embrace all God’s people in all their diversity.
I believe in forgiveness, which makes us all equal before God, and in reconciliation, which heals our brokenness.
I believe in the Resurrection where God will unite us as one people, where all are distinct and all are alike at the same time.
I believe in life eternal, where no one will be foreigner but all will be citizens of the kingdom where God reigns forever and ever.