Christ the what?

Colossians 1:15-20
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers–all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Luke 23:36–37
The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”

Did we read the right gospel? Isn’t today Christ the KING?

Isn’t today a baptism? We’ve got two little sweet peas over here and we’re reading about the crucifixion?

Today is the day of the liturgical year when we particularly recognize the reign of Jesus Christ, the power of God among us in and through all things.

But the image of Jesus that we are given in the gospel to understand that he is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation,
in him all things were created,
he is before all things,
in him all things hold together,
he is the head of the church,
he is the beginning,
the firstborn in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…

And the gospel tells us that we see and know and understand Jesus Christ in the moment of his suffering, his dying, his humiliation.

We might feel angst at the distance between Colossians and Luke, the beautifully poetic proclamation of Christ’s greatness on one hand and the ugliness of cruelty, pain, mocking, and death on the other. But that tension is the deepest and hardest truth of our baptism. We join Jesus through the story of his suffering and we join him in resurrection life.

So today’s proclamation of the power and glory of Christ Jesus is not power and glory as we might expect it. It’s not celebrity or wealth or unquestioned control. Power and glory, success, flourishing, all take on a different meaning in the gospel, in this baptismal life. And we see that most of all, the reign of Christ is over the hearts and minds and lives of those who commit to follow in his radical way of love. 

In baptism, we make vows to move away from evil and harm, from power over others, and commit to trust in and proclaim God’s grace and love as we have known it through Jesus. We promise to seek out that divine presence in other people and celebrate it in one another, to make God among us the defining feature of our common life.  In a culture that preaches louder and more, that cajoles us to buy and upgrade into happiness, to only look out for ourselves or those nearest to us, these promises of baptism make about as much sense as a criminal king, an executed god.

These families choose to baptize their children and commit them to this strange, counterintuitive life. They are promising to do everything you can to raise their children to give themselves away, to live lives of loving and peacemaking.  They are handing them over to die and rise with Christ. They give them to this community and acknowledge that they are not theirs alone, and that can be a frightening thing.

It is certainly a solemn thing, as it is for all of us who will make these promises again this morning, to hear these frightening words from the gospel and give ourselves to this story, this discipleship.

But take one hand, if you are able, and put it on your heart.
Take another hand, if you are able, and put it on your belly.
Breathe a little bit deeper.
Hear the Holy Spirit breathing and speaking her peace and power to you.
Hear the Spirit affirming that this hard road of love,
this upside down way of Christ our King,
this path is the only one that leads to resurrection.
This is the way of love.

When we put this baptism into practice, and allow the Spirit, as the old hymn says, to tune our hearts to sing God’s grace, we might begin to have the courage to live fully in Christ, and see that his reign is in the most surprising and ordinary places.

The reign of Christ, the Kingdom of God, doesn’t look like the biggest crowd. It’s not the most money, the most likes and follows and retweets, it’s not the loudest voice or the most self-justifying logic. The kingdom of God, so the saying goes, belongs to the poor in spirit, the peacemakers, those who face trouble for doing the right thing.

The reign of Christ is here in the sock and button teddy bear our family received for our baby, a gift from an acquaintance and former classmate of mine serving a sentence in the maximum security prison outside Nashville, supplies bought at commissary mark up, then stitched and stuffed with so much love and attention for a baby he’ll never meet.

The reign of Christ is here in the dozens of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made each afternoon at the downtown library, when the librarians realized that their after school tutoring programs couldn’t help teenagers who are too hungry to learn.

The reign of Christ is here when you show up for a funeral.

It’s here when you’re wiping kids’ bottoms and mouths.

It’s here when you’re being a listening ear for someone going through difficulty.

The reign of Christ is here in the kernel of courage it takes to stand up to bullies. It’s here when you decide that the racist or transphobic joke stops here and now, and speak truth and love even when it’s hard.

The reign of Christ is here in 30 Thanksgiving dinners given by this parish to families through the Orchard Knob schools.

There are so many images and stories in the gospel accounts about this reign of Christ, and most of them are surprising. In one, you might remember Jesus’ disciples were wanting to sit at his left and right hands. They are jockeying for power positions with their teacher and friend. “Ahem, did you mention a Kingdom?” They want to make sure they have the most prestigious positions in it. In the gospel of Matthew, it’s the mother of James and John who asks Jesus to promote her sons. Now that’s embarrassing.

But what does Jesus tell them? Well, in Matthew and Mark he warns them of how hard this thing is, that they might not understand the strangeness of this kingdom. But in Luke’s gospel, when Jesus perceives that the guys are bickering over who’s the greatest, who gets to be the most powerful alongside King Jesus, you know what he does? Jesus puts his arm around a little child, and drawing the disciples’ attention to her, says, welcome this child in my name and you welcome me. The least is the greatest. This is the reign of Christ.

So as we receive these little ones today into the household of God, let us also receive them as icons of Christ to us. They are witnesses to the paradox of power and weakness, they are all the wonder of God in flesh among us, glory and power in the smallest and most unexpected places.

And as we celebrate the rule of Jesus Christ, and honor his everlasting power in and through all things, let’s follow the example of our littlest brother and sister at the font, and worship God in the rededication our lives to this baptism, to this way of love.

Insights from Tumor Conference

A few weeks ago, the clergy of the Episcopal Church in East Tennessee gathered for a day of discussing Christian formation. Our conversation was facilitated by the Rev. Steve Sexton, Director of Pastoral Care at the UT Medical Center in Knoxville, and he led us through the day with kindness and humor.

From his work in medical chaplaincy, Steve brought us one of the best guidelines for church dialogue I’ve ever seen. It’s the facilitation guide for what he called “tumor conference,” a regular gathering to trouble shoot particularly difficult medical cases with the full range of specialized staff.

This translates beautifully into the work of churches and communities navigating tough conversations that I wanted to share my summary of the tumor conference principles here.

  • Every voice matters. From the seasoned expert to the newest intern, everyone’s perspective is needed for the group to be strongest.
  • There’s a common objective. One case (or question, or topic, or issue) is deemed the focus for the gathering, and all are working and advising on that common goal.
  • Confidentiality—what happens in this conversation stays in this conversation.
  • And the space to speak freely. In our listening and honoring of every voice, this is an environment to name what needs to be named and share honestly.
  • Stay open to critique, to challenge, and disagreement. At the end of the day, we remain colleagues. Respectful challenge in the context of a trusted relationship helps us to be excellent, to grow, and to think more deeply.
  • Look at the problem from all the disciplines. Different stories, expertise, and skills in every community can offer us creative and multifaceted engagement with a task, problem, or question.
  • Find a consensus. Articulate the composite wisdom of the room into a clear picture.
  • But when it’s all said and done, the “surgeon” (or pastor, facilitator, whomever brought the issue, task, or question) decides how the wisdom of the day and the strategy will be applied.

Aren’t these excellent? I see some of them in play in my facilitation as well as the staff I’m currently working with, but this is such a great vision for community process that needs more attention. What’s your “tumor conference”? Where can you use these ideas?

Naming babies

I’m always curious about how babies get named. Maybe you are too. I acknowledge that this is my version, and my partner might have some different ideas, details, and values about naming these children. 

The day I took my first positive pregnancy test was the same day my husband was mugged at gunpoint. I have never felt less in control. My whole world was a thinly stretched spider web, all vulnerability and uncertainty as we figured out how to finish our masters programs and find jobs and discern priesthood and become parents. We knew his middle name would be James—it’s a nod to my late grandfather, the Greek form of Jacob who struggled and fought with God, and most of all, for James Baldwin, whose writings shaped us both tremendously. Baldwin’s words on courage and resistance, his incisive clarity on white supremacy, his beautiful but never naive belief in love and community have been our compasses. When we found ourselves looking at a different life than we’d expected, preparing to love this new little stranger, how fitting it was to return to the passage that helped me articulate courage for lifelong commitment to Austin in the first place: “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word love here not merely in a personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace — not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.” (The Fire Next Time) We stumbled across Sylvan by accident. It’s the masculine version of the name of a French author and sociologist, Sylvie, assigned in one of Austin’s seminars. Her book was good (not life changing) but we thought the name was just lovely. “Of the forest.” A name that is simple and beautiful, reason enough. Little one, may you be full of tough and universal love, a state of grace. May you have a life of simplicity and beauty in the midst of struggle and courage.

Amos is named for the biblical prophet who poetically proclaimed one of God’s essential hard truths: we are all responsible to each other, and our identity as God’s children is wrapped up in our treatment of each other. And he is named for Dorothy Day, the activist and journalist who co-founded the Catholic Worker movement. Her story and work has also moved and shaped us both, particularly in her vision of common life for Austin, and an activism rooted in sacraments and gospel for me. This babe has arrived in a season of more stability than we’ve ever had as a family, and we receive this steadiness with gratitude, not guilt. But Day’s voice keeps us accountable and engaged, looking beyond false political polarity and false comfortable faith, calling for vigilant resistance and for peaceful flourishing without giving up either. “Even when they admit it is bad, they say, “What can we do?” And the result is palliatives, taking care of the wrecks of the social order, rather than changing it so that there would not be quite so many broken homes, orphaned children, delinquents, industrial accidents, so much destitution in general. Palliatives, when what we need is a revolution, beginning now. Each one of us can help start it… If we don’t do something about it, the world may well say, “Why bring children into the world, the world being what it is?” We bring them into it and start giving them a vision of an integrated life so that they too can start fighting.” (“All the Way to Heaven is Heaven,” 1948) Little one, may you see the beauty and responsibility of our connectedness. May you hold onto peace and vision as you heal the world around you. 

This Life That Is Ours

I’m rolling into my third Mothers’ Day 9 months pregnant, with frustration and tiredness to match my girth. I waddle after my willful toddler, less and less physically able to keep up. I’m less and less patient with him, too, as the muggy Tennessee summer sets in and these back aches and Braxton Hicks seem stronger than they used to be. I prep for the new guy, with much more peace of mind than the first time around, but it’s still feeling like a lot to keep track of midwife and chiropractor appointments, check-lists and kegels. I’m refreshing myself on Bradley birthing and tracking down numbers to call for insurance and daycare and medical leave after he arrives.

And all the while I’m still priesting and writing as hard as I can, trying to pre-plan and delegate 3 months of ministry into trello boards, fielding last minute requests from my book editor, and checking off revision requests from my thesis advisors.

So when Lauren Burdette’s little book of bite sized stories, wisdom, and prayer showed up in my mailbox a few weeks ago, it was like she had shown up in my living room in the flesh with a big hug and the reminder to breathe. This Life That Is Ours: Motherhood As Spiritual Practice has been inviting me to consider that the struggle and hustle and round ligament pain and potty training might hold more grace and power of Spirit than I can comprehend at this moment. “If God desires to meet us within our parenting,” she writes, “how can we experience that?” 

Lauren’s call and gift as a spiritual director is all over this book, as she draws out holy encounter from the most ordinary moments. Her snapshots of daily life as mom of three, observations about the body changes after child birthing, and struggle to understand herself apart from the ever-expanding work of mothering had me chuckling and nodding along in understanding. But the questions and wisdom Lauren pulls out of this ubiquitous experience pushed me to see the mundane a little differently. She knows time for reflection and prayer is limited, so each reading is brief, but potent, with questions that point toward God’s heart and God’s presence in my own story.

Lauren gives her reader the practice of noticing (which she summarizes in instructions for the spiritual practice of Examen of Motherhood): noticing God, noticing myself, noticing my family. And the best part of that practice—of taking pause to really see what this life is doing, who these folks are, how God’s grace is saturating it even when, and especially when, we can’t feel itthe best part is that noticing begets loving. To journey through This Life That Is Ours, to wonder with Lauren what it means to see and meet God in the sweet and hard chaos of parenthood, is to fall in love with God a little bit more. It’s falling in love with our kids and partners a little bit more. It might even let us fall in love with ourselves a little bit more, too.

Ash Wednesday

Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 51:1-17
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Today we start our annual journey into the wilderness of Jesus’s suffering, death, and resurrection. We fast and pray for forty days in his example of his desert wanderings and temptation. This is our season of ashes and covered crosses, of abstaining from alleluias and chocolate and baptisms and booze. This is a somber time when we accept the Christian tradition’s invitation to serious reflection and repentance, to mind-body-spirit preparation for death and life that we will experience in Holy Week. The Lenten preparation, this deep soul work of putting reflection into practice day after day, is especially important to deepening our faith and connection to the heart of the gospel, to the life and death of Jesus because, unlike the story of gospels, which leads one chapter to the next, from Gethsemane to the empty garden tomb, our lives, our journeys of suffering and death and resurrection, aren’t linear. Our liturgical observance captures a bit of this winding road. Throughout lent, throughout the season of repentance, of reckoning with our limits and mortality and failure, each Sunday is still a celebration of Easter, still our resurrection feast each week. And of course, we all know the days of reckoning with our limits and mortality, of hitting bottom and coming to deep repentance, don’t just happen during the appropriate season of lent, and we acknowledge this  in the church, too, when we repent and grieve and reflect together all year round.

Days of hurt and loneliness, those terrible Good Fridays, come when we least expect them. Days of emptiness and uncertainty, Holy Saturdays, pop up in our lives. But those Easters! The Easters come, too, don’t they? Sometimes they’re small, like the same old narcissus coming up in the yard again this year. And sometimes the Easters are glorious, life-changing: reconciliations and births and prison releases and remissions and falling in love. Not only is there no rhythm to them, but the Good Fridays and the Holy Saturdays and the Easter Sundays will sneak up on us all at the same time.

Like when you’re holding the newest baby in your family, and even though he’s been gone for years, you see your dad. His eyes have skipped generations and shown up on this little girl’s face, and you are so full of gladness for her and missing him terribly at the same time so that you can’t breathe? Or the feeling when you’re in the rubble of an ended relationship, figuring out what the new normal looks like, and one day realize with bittersweet satisfaction that your own solitary company is very good company. Or all those triumphs and setbacks of the journey of recovery, that slow healing of all tangled up pain and victory and knowing, practicing, that the key is in holding it all much more loosely than you want to.

We gather today and enter together into this season of honoring these good and hard things, life’s frightening and vulnerable things, of repenting, of doing our inner work with God. We do this so that we can be strengthened and grounded, more able to recognize that in the ordinary and extraordinary jumbled moments of death and resurrection, God is present with us. God is at work, and calling us to God’s work. We enter into the suffering and the death and in the resurrection with Christ himself.
Our experiences of death and the resurrection are always all together. And God knows this about us. God made these lives of jumbled up death and resurrection. The ashes are for us, not for God. We’re the ones who need the reminder. The Gospel reading makes clear that Jesus isn’t asking us to disfigure ourselves in prayer. God doesn’t need us here, kneeling and marked with the grave. Psalm 134 says it so tenderly: “God knows how we were made; God remembers that we are dust.” But we need to remember that we are dust, and to dust we will return. We need to remember that on our own we are small, we are frail and failing.

This reminder, this mark of our dustiness, is something for us to pat ourselves on the back for, be proud of having been in church today. And it’s not so that we go about feeling terrible for ourselves. It’s not a sign of pride, but it’s also not meant to get us stuck in shame. Because remember? The Easters are all tangled up in the Lents and the Good Fridays.

When we know that resurrection life and death are always tied together, our practice of remembering our death, remembering our failures in repentance, can be, more than anything, a practice of trust. By taking this step of remembering we are dust, we are calling on God’s mercy with confidence, the psalmist says, in God’s steadfast love. We can take on the daunting work of the fast, entrusting our treasure and our hearts to God, because God is our understanding creator, our loving parent. We can bravely accept Isaiah’s call to loose the bonds of injustice because we know that the task of breaking yokes of oppression happens only with the guidance and strength of God’s Spirit, our constant companion. We can venture into the unspeakably vulnerable territory of speaking our sin and shortcomings because love divine is waiting for us in the wilderness, and that love divine wants us to be free, healed, and whole.

We don’t face our sin and stare down our death for the sake of sin and death. Sure, the ashes represent this, but they also point us to so much more. The poet Jan Richardson nudges us to thinking differently about our ashes. In an Ash Wednesday poem, she asks her readers, “Did you not know what the Holy One can do with dust?”

“Did you not know what the Holy One can do with dust?” The psalmist knew. When we remember we are dust, when we repent of our wrongdoing and turn to God to make us whole, God will teach us wisdom, restore us to joy, and make us living declarations of praise, of love and mercy.

“Did you not know what the Holy One can do with dust?” The prophet knew. When we remember we are dust, when we let go our ambitious grasping to make space for neighbors in need, God will satisfy all our needs and rebuild us, and our light shall rise in the darkness.

Richardson’s poem goes on to say,

let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not by false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are
but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust.

Today, let us be marked by repentance, a repentance full of trust and hope. Yes, come and be marked by death, but a death that’s always, always pointing to resurrection. Let us be marked by what God can do with the dust.

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“Go in peace”

The stories of Mark 5:21-43 may be familiar to you. The dying girl and the hemorrhaging woman are two profound examples of God’s love, mashed together in one powerful chapter of God’s attention to healing and to the plight of women and children.

First I want to acknowledge that while they end in miraculous restoration, these stories are difficult. They are painful. They are painful and they are familiar.

If we pause for even one moment, offer the text one smidge of empathy, we can see ourselves here. We know these stories.

Our community has lost children too soon. Our community struggles with and cares for those who struggle with chronic illness. We have felt the desperation of Jairus,  advocating for his child. Like the woman, we know what it is to be sick and tired of being sick and tired.

And we have also seen that death and disease, grief and exhaustion, the depletion of our financial and emotional stores, is not the end of the story. They are not the end of our stories. We have seen that God doesn’t ration out God’s power and love, but that it is surprisingly abundant, plenty for us all.

I want us to focus this morning on the hemorrhaging woman who interrupts Jesus. This woman had suffered from ongoing menstruation for twelve years. Twelve years! We know that women’s reproductive health concerns aren’t always taken seriously in our own day and age, particularly for poor women and women of color. We can only imagine the struggle to be heard and treated with the limited medical knowledge and access of her time, no sonograms or blood tests to give clarity. When the problem first began, maybe she went to her local healer, but his treatment didn’t work. She was referred to another, and then another, and another physician. Their remedies ranged from harmlessly ineffective to miserable, some gave her other symptoms, worse than the sickness in the first place. We know that story. And without proper treatment, what would become any dream she might have had of a baby? We know that story, too.

In the culture and time of this gospel, there were guidelines for cleanliness and purity that pertained to women’s cycles. With bleeding that never stopped, she would have been continuously restricted in her religious participation with her community. She would have had to maintain a stringent hygiene regimen, going above and beyond with every interaction, every household chore, to avoid sharing her impure state with others. Modern medicine tells us that side effects of this type of condition would include dizziness and fainting, irregular heart rate, low energy, and, likely, continual physical pain. For 12 years.

We can’t know exactly how her community has responded to her sickness. People may have been offering her all the support and compassion they could, making meal trains and going to appointments. Or people may have been tired of offering her support, and offer only resentment or avoidance — the text doesn’t say. We do know that she had hit her limit. In spite of her overwhelming fear, in spite of all the social boundaries that said she should not, she was going to advocate for her healing, go straight to the best option for freedom.

She is sick and tired, and she’s had enough.

Now, the gospel of Mark is a rapid fire story, the comic book equivalent of the gospels. Everything happens quickly, and Jesus is on the move, the man of action. But in this portion of the text, he takes a passive and objective role as the bleeding woman takes center stage as our protagonist. This is her story. She is the one on the move, and this reversal of the script, so different than what we expect, fits with the way that she crosses boundaries and our expectations of what a Jesus-healing looks like.

She thinks, “If I can just get close enough, if I can just touch him, I’ll be ok.”

Can you see it? Close your eyes with me and imagine.

Imagine being tired, more tired than you’ve ever been in your life, and walking out into a bunch of people in the street. It’s a big crowd of people. You spot him in the center, but you’re on the edge of the group. You duck and move and squeeze between bodies, some of them strangers and some of them folks you’ve known your whole life, trying not to lose sight of him, trying not to lose your pace with the group. Your toes got stepped on, now you’re practically in this guys armpit over here, someone notices you and says hello, tries to draw you into conversation — but no, you won’t be distracted.

And then, just like that, he’s right in front of you. You grab the hem of his clothes, just a little brush, a moment, one finger skimming over fabric, and. . . .relief. You feel blood pressure stabilize, fuzzy thoughts clear and focus, strength surging through legs and trunk. Can you imagine it?

She went where she wasn’t supposed to go. She broke the rules. She crossed all kinds of boundaries to claim healing and flourishing. And when Jesus realizes what has happened, realizes that his power has gone, his boundary crossed…. he greets her with love.
He knows his own abundance — he goes on to raise the little girl, after all — he knew the admonition of the Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth, that “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.”
From the abundance of his own power and resources, Christ affirms her transgression, and greets her with love.

She broke the rules for the sake of safety and healing, to claim a future for herself, a connection to her family and community. Her self-advocacy and faith for her wholeness was the right thing! And Jesus honors her courage. “Your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

———–

Our church has the tradition of reading the letters of apostles, such as Paul, in worship. This morning I would like to conclude with a letter from one of our modern-day apostles, Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, published last week.

Right now our church and country has a chance to model ourselves after Jesus in this story. We have thousands of people crossing boundaries at great risk in hope of flourishing, safety, healing. As you listen, I invite you to hold in your heart and mind, our sister, the hemorrhaging woman, and her courage to seek a better life. I invite you to you to hold in your heart and mind, the assurance that the power of God, the compassion of God, the family of God, is far bigger and more abundant than we could imagine, more than enough for any human need.

From Bishop Michael:
“The screams of children being taken from their mothers and fathers at our border, under our flag, haunts the nation. Across political and religious divides, the nation – and the world – is aghast and Americans are refusing complicity in all the ways they can. Millions of people are crying, protesting and praying in our houses of worship and in the public square. In a moment of national shame, huge swaths of people are acting in love.

The families making treacherous and often dangerous journeys to seek refuge in the US are desperate. They face extreme violence, persecution and poverty in their home countries. You cannot deter people who are fleeing for their lives, even with policies as cruel as taking children away from their parents. People who come to our borders only hope to give their children a chance. We should be meeting these people with compassion.

Christians have recoiled against the notion that ripping children from their parents – euphemistically called “family separation” – in any way comports with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus of Nazareth, his mother, Mary, and Joseph were refugees who fled persecution and emigrated to Egypt. Love thy neighbor is the Christian way. There is no biblical mandate or warrant for what is occurring on our borders. Christianity must never be confused with cruelty.
While the president has rightly declared families will no longer be separated at the border, he wrongly continues to promote a hurtful immigration policy greatly devoid of human compassion. Even with the new executive order, immigration officers will keep families who are legally seeking asylum in detention.

The agony of migrant parents at our border is immense. Every parent has feared the unthinkable: my child is gone. For me, it was a flash of dread in an everyday experience while shopping with my two young children in a department store. My oldest daughter wandered away and for the 10 seconds before I found her nestled between hanging clothes I felt a panic I had never before imagined.

Those remain the longest 10 seconds of my life and are seared in my memory. I can still taste the fear and I relive that sick feeling in my body remembering what it was like to be physically shaken by the fear that I had lost my daughter and would not be able to find her. Imagine those seconds multiplied by days and weeks and months.
Today, there remain thousands of children scattered in foster homes and child prison camps with no system in place for reunification. Each of these children needs our prayers, our voices of outrage and our help to reunite them with their families and heal from this terror. And the children who came before them, those who have crossed the border as children alone and some who were remanded to youth prisons that are under scrutiny for abusive practices – these children also need our intervention.

The rhetoric from our government leaders, which casts “the other” – in this case, families seeking refuge – as dangerous, inhumanely violates the Christian tradition. Selfishness is a sin. We cannot live up to our country’s ideals if we embrace only our own desires and put our needs above all others – even above God. Being a US citizen does not make us more human than people on the other side of our border.
We are in the midst of a global migration crisis, where millions of families have been separated after fleeing their homelands due to violence, conflict and persecution.

This crisis touches almost every continent in the world. The US is on track to resettle the fewest refugees since the refugee resettlement programme began in 1980. God does not condone our attack on immigrants. Jesus says: “Love your neighbour.” Jesus says: “Love your enemy.” Jesus says: “Welcome the stranger.”

What is the Christian way to manage borders? Strength does not require cruelty. Indeed, cruelty is a response rooted in weakness. Jesus was clear about what true strength is and it always is driven by love. There may be many policy prescriptions, but the prism through which we view them should be the same: does the policy treat people with love, acknowledging our common humanity? If the answer is no, it is not a Christian solution. Detaining and separating families – children and their parents – is not just happening at the border. Some immigrant parents and care-givers who have lived in the US for decades – and have children who are US citizens – are being rounded up and deported, leaving a trail of countless children in this country without their parents.

President Trump’s executive order has not quieted the cries of the children still separated from their parents. It has not comforted the parents still panicked because they cannot see their babies. It does nothing to stop the heartless deportations of immigrants who are longtime neighbors and members of our communities.

All of those families weep. And so we must respond to the weeping by working to help America to live out one of its core ideals, enshrined in words on the Statue of Liberty.
Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Anatheism and Sacramental Democratic Participation

This weekend I got to return to Lee University to present some ideas about faith and citizenship. Take a look!

Returning to God and Each Other-Anatheism as Christian Citizenship and Resistance