February 2, 2014: Having Faith When Told U R Not Welcome

Posted on : Jan 30th, 2014 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

All of us have had horrible experiences of being told we’re not welcome whether verbally or non-verbally.  Some of those experiences are more hurtful than others.  Many of us who are gay or lesbian have spent much of our life fighting for inclusion and equality, especially within the Christian Church.  Even ten years ago, you could have never convinced me that the U.S. military would be more accepting of gay and lesbian persons that the Christian Church.  But it is, and it looks like those anti-gay Christian traditions aren’t going to change any time soon!  They make it clear.  We are not welcome.

On Saturday, January 25, nine of us from church experienced a Mission Immersion trip through Centro Romero, our UCC Border and Latino ministry.  Rev. Carlos Correa, our Associate Conference Minister for Border & Latino Ministries was our spirit-guide.  He was fabulous.  Much of what we saw was very painful.  The walls that have been built between our country and Mexico are as despicable to me as the wall that has been built between Israel and Palestine.  In every way possible it screams “You Are Not Welcome Here!”  It is also overkill if there ever was overkill.

Then we saw “El Bordo” which is a resident community of between 2,000 – 4,000 people who live in a flood basin – much like the LA river, right next to the US/Mexico Border.  Surprise, surprise, one former “El Bordo” resident we met and talked with spoke American English without any Spanish accent.  Turns out his parents brought him to the US when he was 2 months old.  He lived here for some 26 years.  But because he wasn’t born here, he was not a US citizen.  His four year old son, Luiz, was born in the U.S. and now lives with him in Mexico.  Eric was deported because he had a couple speeding tickets, and as you know, it’s illegal for undocumented folk to drive.

Eric told us of the horrific predicament deportees face.  Deportees are taken across the border and dumped.  They don’t have U.S. ID’s or Mexican ID’s.  The reason so many of them live in the drainage ditch is because as soon as they are found on the streets, the Mexican police ask them for ID, which they don’t have, and they are thrown in jail for a few days.  They are then released and within hours, arrested and thrown again in jail.  Why this cycle of harassment?  They’re not wanted.

We met a wonderful Roman Catholic sister (Order of St. Francis) who runs a ministry that feeds the poor and the homeless.  Part of their ministry is now helping refugees deported from the US get IDs in Mexico.

So here we have a group of people who are told they are not wanted by the United States, and they are not wanted by the Mexican government either.  They’re caught in a horrible place.  The only place they are safe is living together in a drainage ditch and under freeway bridges, along the border – thus the name, “El Bordo.”

In the second chapter of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul tells us that we are no longer aliens or foreign visitors; we are fellow-citizens with the holy people of God and part of God’s household (one family).  In the UCC we claim as one of our core values “God’s Extravagant Welcome.”  That means every human being – gay, heterosexual, transgender, female, male, people with various abilities and disabilities, people of all races, economic classes, “documented” or “undocumented” – all are  welcomed by God into God’s family because in Christ, we are all one.  No exceptions.

As many of us know from personal experience, and as we experienced in Mexico, those who know most about what it means to be welcomed are those who have first been told they are not welcome.  As the Apostle Paul so beautifully says, “For Christ is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of hostility that kept us apart. “

This Sunday we will continue our worship series, “It Helps to Have Faith When…You’re Told You’re Not Welcome.”

Blessings,

Dan

~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

Ephesians 2: 11-22

Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, reminds us that we are no longer aliens or foreign visitors; we are fellow-citizens with the holy people of God and part of God’s household (one family).

Bear in mind that at one time the men among you who were Gentiles physically – called “the Uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the Circumcised,” all because of a minor operation – had no part in Christ and were excluded from the community of Israel.  You were strangers to the Covenant and its promise; you were without hope and without God in the world.

But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For Christ is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of hostility that kept us apart.  In his own flesh, Christ abolished the Law, with its commands and ordinances, in order to make the two into one new person, thus establishing peace and reconciling us all to God in one body though the cross, which put to death the enmity between us.  Christ came and “announced the Good News of peace to you who were far away, and to those who were near”; for through Christ, we all have access in one Sprit to our God.

This means that you are strangers and aliens no longer.  No, you are included in God’s holy people and are members of the household of God, which is built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Christ Jesus as the capstone.  In Christ the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in our God; in Christ you are being built into this temple, to become a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Mark 7: 24-30

A Syro-Phoenician (Gentile/Greek) woman whom Jesus treats poorly makes Jesus change his mind.  Jesus learned from this woman, causing him to grow and become more inclusive in his ministry.

Jesus left Gennesaret and went to the territory of Tyre and Sidon.  There he went into a certain house and wanted no one to recognize him, but he could not pass unrecognized.

A woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him.  She approached Jesus and fell at his feet.  The woman, who was Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, begged Jesus to expel the demon from her daughter.  Jesus told her, “Let the children of the household satisfy themselves at table first.  It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

She replied, “Yes, Rabbi, but even the dogs under the table eat the family’s scraps.”

Then Jesus said to her, “For saying this, you may go home happy; the demon has left your daughter.”  When she got home, she found her daughter in bed and the demon gone.

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