In the first book of the Bible called Genesis God speaks to Abraham and says, “Leave your country, your family, and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you. I will bless you and make your descendants into a great nation.”
God calls people to leave where they are and go and make new community.
God called Abraham and Sarah.
God called Moses.
God called Joshua.
God called the judges.
God called the kings.
God called the exiles.
For Christians God sent Jesus and called the apostles and Paul and the first followers whose names are recorded in the books of the New Testament.
God makes new community.
My family came from England and from Ireland. One almost drowned along the way, others made the journey with ease. All faced life threatening and life giving challenges in a new world. All of them faced a nation that promised new life regardless of the cost of arriving or the cost of staying on these shores.
They came with hope for a future and for something better for their life. Many believed that God had in store for them better things.
Perhaps your parents came too or you came. You and I have arrived here today because the mother of exiles, these United States, promises: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
We are, as the author Jon Meacham has writen, a nation that believes in God and believes in providence; the working out of God’s plan.
We know that God invites, God beckons, God calls out to his people and says: “Go to the land that I will show you.” We know this because we have experienced it ourselves.
God has called us, beckoned us into community.
God is constantly renewing the face of the earth. God is constantly doing his work through the efforts of his holy people. People called to work together, hand in hand, beyond the divisions of homeland and language, for the betterment of creation.
God intends us to be built into a virtuous society, a society who works for the benefit of all of God’s people and not ourselves alone.
When the followers of God have journeyed out into the deserts of life they have called upon God, do not forget us. And, I say God does not forget.
God does not forget his tired, his poor.
God does not forget his huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
God does not forget the fearful or the anxious.
God does not forget the fallen.
And, God does not forget the imprisoned.
God does not forget. God does not turn his eyes away. God remembers his people and their journey. God does not forget, God remembers you and he remembers me.
And when God looks down upon us and sees us in our lives calling out for him. God answers. And, there are many ways in which God answers. One of the ways in which God answers his faithful people calling out to him for rescue and to be saved is to send others.
Did not God send Moses to his people in Egypt? Did not God send Isaiah to comfort his people in Babylon? Do you and I not remember the names of those who God has sent to us to call us by name, to offer us the hand of God, and to lift us out of the dirt and ashes of our broken lives? You and I remember their names.
Those saints of God are generations of immigrants who have gone before us and were not content for their own success. When others arrived they remembered their experience and choose not to act out of fear but to help our immigrant fathers and mothers find their way in a strange land. They did this, these saints of God, because they heard the words of Isaiah calling: help the oppressed.
They heard the words of God speaking to their hearts saying: you were once a stranger in a strange strange land. You remember and you are called by God, this is what our immigrant fathers and mothers heard, you are called to help people into society with dignity, and respect. You are to help them become part of your national family…for they are part of my family -- the family of God.
Immigrants have always built up this nation and benefited us as a nation and as people of faith, by bringing their willingness to hard work, their entrepreneurial spirit, their diverse cultures, and their ethnic foods. Our culture is an immigrant culture.
It is true that immigrants are being demonized today because people are afraid of changing demographics, economic anxiety, border violence, because the system is broken.
These fears are not new fears. They are the same fears that greeted the Irish when they arrived. These are the same fears that greeted the Asians as they arrived. Today these fears greet the immigrant Hispanics, the new Africans, the islanders, and those from the Middle East.
God has never asked us to act out of our fear. God has always called us to act on behalf of the newcomer and the stranger. We know what we must do. We must on God’s behalf see one another as immigrant brother and sister – as family.
We are advocating and praying for reform because we are God’s family.
We are simply advocating for family unity.
We are advocating for reform that allows documentation of immigrants and their families with a path to citizenship.
We are advocating for affordable process.
We are advocating for an environment where people are safe in their community no matter what their legal status is; and that they have the ability to work with our civic authorities to provide for healthy communities.
We are advocating that policies should respect human rights by beginning with humanitarian values. We are advocating that we respect the dignity of all persons.
We are simply saying that we have a moral obligation to provide refuge and to welcome the stranger.
You and I have a responsibility to remember that we were once strangers in a strange land and that we are called by God to care for those now sent into our care.
We must do this because we understand that they represent God. The immigrant and the immigration issues we face today are our greatest challenge as a nation. How we answer the questions posed and the advocacy required will show what we are truly made of.
At the end of the day we can have great slogans, great beliefs, and even be one of the most powerful and greatest nations in the world.
If we do not help people find freedom and liberty…and we do not do this with kindness, and hospitality and love then we may loose the heart of our nation. Indeed, we will have lost the heart of all of our faiths combined.
It is God that calls us into a diverse community, a family of God. It is upon God’s mercy and providence that we depend. And, it is upon God’s call to help the stranger that we discover our journey into God’s kingdom.
God spoke to Abram and said, “Leave your country, your family, and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you. I will bless you and make your descendants into a great nation.”
by The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, Preached at Immigration Reform Prayer Service, Catholic Charismatic Center, Houston, Texas
Hear the sermon preached in Spanish, with the last 1/4 in English here: http://www.adoyle.libsyn.com/
News following the Immigration Service:
- "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
- "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
- "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
- "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
- "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
- "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
- "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
- "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball