This message has been tossed around in my head for months now. Months. Since November, when politicians first started swearing to board up the country and refuse Syrian and Iraqi refugees...and I've let it sit here. Sit here, stewing, hoping that at some point the country would be shaken from this bad dream that seems to be gripping us.
Yet, here I still sit, watching a dream morph into a nightmare believing that at some point, we'll wake up - gasping for air, yes - but thankful, it was all a dream.
I have no idea where to start. So, I'll just say this: Lord, have mercy. Christ have mercy.
What is mercy - but a picture of the God's loving kindness (hesed)? His willingness as the father of the prodigal son, who wished him dead, to stoop down and embrace his son? His willingness to reach down low into the muck and mire, risking his reputation, to pull up a child - or even an animal - destined to die unless one reached out?
This is what each of us, whether we embrace the mercy of Jesus or not, has been offered. This is what we, for those who call ourselves "believers" have received. THIS is what we, as believers, must offer to others.
To do so, though, we must first recognize that we are in the muck and the mire - and we are not those on the sidelines helping others out...we are simply extending a hand to our fellow sinner - and together, we grasp the hand of our Father. This is the image God revealed to me on Saturday while I was talking to him about a guy that I don't particular care for (and no, it wasn't the Donald; just a fellow parishioner that I don't even know well - so I'm just being judgy)...and the image I saw was that his hand was necessary for me to even get closer to the surface because he was closer to the surface than me [that's how much I am in the muck].
Mercy is not just between us and God. To be the body of Christ is not just between us and our church or just between us and people who believe like us. To be the body of Christ, we must be showing mercy to every body. We must be willing to risk ourselves so that another might live.
...and what I see from my beloved America is, instead of living the freedom that comes from being the body of Christ - fear.
We are afraid to be open to any new group of people, to admit the imperfections of our history and past - because, God forbid, we won't be great, any more.
That is never what made us great. What made America great was unity - and geez, when in our history have we experienced unity in all things? (never!) But, we recognized that in our great freedom, that we must show mercy: we must recognize my neighbor as better than myself; I must consider the needs of another as much as I consider my own. A spirit of brotherhood united even when we disagreed on the specifics.
Didn't it? Or is this just my idealization of America? Because I really don't know, anymore.
There have been dark times in our past. People have been oppressed. Admitting these things doesn't make America small. Repentance leads to reconciliation. Maybe "your people" had nothing to do with slavery because they weren't even in America yet. I get it. That doesn't mean you can't listen to those whose family stories have been defined by a great, dehumanizing, injustice. We must listen and acknowledge for some healing to begin.
The immigration issue won't be solved with a fence. It is not simple. Every day people risk their lives to wander across a mountainous desert...for what? To be greeted by a country that spits at them, locks them up, and sends them back? I guess I don't understand why it's such an arduous process to allow immigrants. What happened to Ellis Island? Why can't Nogales and Douglas and El Paso and San Diego become beacons of hope like Ellis Island was for my ancestors?
Because some might be drug dealers? Some might be rapists? I think we've got Americans who are drug dealers, rapists, terrorists...so, what are we really afraid of? [which is the same argument I'd pose for allowing Syrian and Iraqi refugees to come]
For those of us who call ourselves Christians, it becomes especially pertinent to fight our fears and embrace those who are hurting, sick, alien - different from us in every way. No, America may not be the same America from your childhood - but, that's part of the beauty, right? We are grasping each other's hands and swimming toward life.
The aspiration of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness is not found without being in a community. To be an island is contrary to the Gospel...and the Gospel is Truth, is it not? We don't get to choose our community. We've got to struggle in this together.
To close...just don't give in to fear, ok, America? Don't succumb to hate or division. We are better than that. We must be better than that.