As Christians, we understand that our position on immigration must grounded in our faith. But too often, that foundation is overshadowed by the complexities of the current political conversation and our feelings.
As Matthew Soerens, Director of Church Mobilization at World Relief reminds us:
"Many of the most prominent heroes of our faith -- Abraham, Joseph, Ruth, David, even Jesus -- crossed borders into another country at some point. Furthermore, the Hebrew word that most closely describes immigrants (ger, in the singular form) appears 92 times in the Old Testament, often mentioned alongside orphans and widows as uniquely vulnerable groups whom God expressly loves and commands his people to love as well (see, for example, Deuteronomy 10:17-19, Deuteronomy 24:19, Psalm 146:9, Zechariah 7:9-10). In the New Testament, hospitality -- from the Greek philoxenia (literally, “the love of strangers”) -- is mandated for Christ followers."
At St. Paul's, we have a unique experience of the stranger in our midst. Many of us have met the Iraqi family who live across the street from us. Mr. A. served the US Military in Iraq for six years. He was jailed and tortured for his service to our country. Thanks be to God, he and his family were able to receive asylum in the United States and begin a new life. Immigrants from Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East have made new homes in Carondelet. What a privilege to be able to meet and welcome them.
In the United States, immigrant visas are strictly limited to four categories:
Christians can debate whether or not breaking U.S. immigration law is biblically justified by particular circumstances, such as fleeing violence or extreme poverty. But knowing the facts about immigration at least helps us understand why so many people decide to immigrate or to overstay a visa illegally. So often, their choice is not between immigrating legally or illegally but between immigrating illegally or staying put in challenging, even brutal, circumstances that none of us would willingly endure.
These are only the most basic facts about immigration. Many resources -- including statistics, suggested books and a church leader’s guide to immigration -- are readily available online and can be invaluable in helping church members understand the fuller story. I know that the more I learned, the faster my misconceptions melted away."
As we move deeper into relationships with our sisters and brothers in Carondelet, let's continue to have conversations about what it means to welcome - and let's not forget the strangers in our midst.
--- Pastor Rebecca
Jesus set a pretty high standard when it came to following him. He didn't just go around healing and helping those in need, he called them to step up and do things. Things like leaving their families, their homes, and traveling with him on a journey toward sacrifice. Multiple times in the Gospels, Jesus teaches about the costs and benefits of following him; of being a disciple, a member of the Jesus Movement. On the challenging side, he called us to take up our cross and follow him. He told us to devote ourselves, to deny ourselves, in essence, to give ourselves 100% to the embodied life of oneness with God. Within this call, are tangible acts of devotion. If you want to know where you are in your discipleship, evaluate how you live, how you give, where your time is spent. Then you'll know.
At St. Paul's, we are partnering with each other to devote ourselves to Jesus and to support the kingdom of God in our corner of the world.
As part of that work, we give financially in two ways. First, we give to the church's operating budget. This giving is absolutely necessary to support our common life and ministry. We give because we love sharing this life together and because God calls us to give a portion of our income as a part of our discipleship.
We also need to give sacrificially. This is a giving that exceeds what we think we can afford. It is an offering to God in trust. It's between you and God what that looks like in your life. It may be on a case by case basis where you listen to the Holy Spirit's nudge, or it may be an intention for the year to give more than 10% of your net income. However you sacrifice, the meaning is the same: you are trusting God and expressing thanks and praise through this offering.
Both these forms of giving are essential for our Christian Growth. Together, let's continue to give back, thanking God for the blessings of this life, and the life to come.
Just a short drive and 10 minute walk from our building, is a beautiful and flourishing Kindergarten through Eighth Grade Magnet School. Lyon-Blow Academy has been through several iterations as a public school, but it currently serves as a magnet elementary school and a neighborhood school for grades 6 - 8th. In addition, it is a full service school for community instruction. People from the neighborhood and beyond attend evening classes to advance their learning, gain proficiency in English and get their GED.
87% of students are children of color. The majority of them are children from the Carondelet area. That means they belong within our concern and support. The principal, Dr. Ingrid Iskali, told us that the best support we at St. Paul's can give to the students is through hygiene products. Young girls in the school are experiencing the onset of menstruation and are often unprepared. Our donations prevent shame and embarrassment for these young women so that they can focus on their studies. This Sunday, we'll gather food for the Betterment Association and feminine hygiene products for Lyon Academy. Please donate!
St. Francis' Feast Day was officially on October 4. At St. Paul's, we celebrated it during our Sunday Eucharist. St. Francis is well known for his love of animals. He preached to the birds; he called the sun and moon his brother and sister. Purportedly, he was careful to rescue the worms that became stuck on hard ground after rainstorms. Not just one or two, but all the worms he could find. He would pick them up and relocate them to softer, safer soil. There is a tenderness and attentiveness about that story that is inspiring. It's important to care for creatures smaller than ourselves.
The writer of Psalm 8 praises God for all the creatures and beauties of creation, and it seems to lead him to reflect on the tremendous gift it is to be a part of that whole. One paraphrase translations puts it this way: "I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous your handmade sky-jewelry, moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?"
If worms wrote songs, would they sing about us that way? Would they feel that we love and care for them as God loves and cares for us?
Now, I don't know if God wants us to rescue worms. But I do know that God rescues us. And it's a pretty equivalent comparison. When we rescue a dog from the shelter, when we put seed out for the birds, or give our money and time to help protect the earth, I suspect it's another way we keep love going all across the spectrum: from God to Dog.
--- Pastor Rebecca
Paul wrote, I laid a foundation like a wise master builder...but someone else is building on top of it. Each person needs to pay attention to the way the build on it. I Corinthians 3:10 (Common English Bible)
The experience of remodeling a home while keeping up its normal operation can be stressful. Scheduling mealtimes, comings and goings, and discovering the need for unexpected repairs are just a few of the challenges. Only the thought of achieving our dream of having a new place, that was designed just for us, motivates us to continue.
The spiritual life is no different. Sometimes, our reforms are painful and difficult. But the certainty of transformation strengthens us in this process. The apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians (above) challenged them to spiritual reform in their community. A the beginning of Chapter 3, he warns about inappropriate behaviors which sowed spiritual immaturity. He urged them toward spiritual maturity. Just as we have the freedom to choose the materials and the best builder to remodel a house, we can choose how to build our spiritual lives. Guided by the word of God, we can either build our spiritual lives n the foundation of Christ, or we can choose to build with material that has now eternal worth (I Corinthians 3:12-13). It's up to us to choose wisely.
- Indus Alexander, St. Paul's Parishioner
(transcribed from The Upper Room)
Rector's Corner posts written by Pastor Rebecca.