February 22, 2015: How Are We Like Jesus?

Posted on : Feb 19th, 2015 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

On Monday of this week, a federal judge in South Texas temporarily blocked President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration. This happened two days before undocumented persons with children who were born in the US (i.e. their children are U.S. Citizens) were finally offered a process to begin moving toward gaining legal status which would allow them to work and if admitted, attend college. The program’s intent was to defer deportation of families where one or more members of a family (usually a child or children) who were U.S. citizens and have lived in the U.S. five or more years would be able to stay together as a family without the fear of the non-citizen members (often a father, mother, or older sibling) being deported. In other words, the heart of this program was to try and keep families together by deferring deportation until our government could come up with a sensible solution for the estimated 5 million families where one or more members of the family is a U.S. citizen and the others are not citizens or documented. The immigrant community and those of us who care about them had our hearts and hopes crushed on Monday.

We have waited so long for any reasonable action that would help resolve the problem of immigration. It’s no small problem. Our government estimates we have about 11 million people in the US from nations all over the world who are undocumented immigrants. However, most of the discrimination is against our sisters and brothers who immigrated from Mexico and poorer Central American countries.

At our Worship-in-the-Park service last September, we heard the personal story of Kenia Bran who with her two children and two nephews, fled their home country of Honduras after Kenia’s uncle and husband were murdered. At that service we heard why Kenia risked her life and her kids’ lives to get to the U.S. Criminals, looking to silence any onlookers, killed Kenia’s uncle and then threatened her husband. Kenia says her husband sought asylum in the US, but his request was repeatedly denied. Three months after he returned home, he was found murdered on the family’s front porch, shot 17 times. Kenia said, “They killed my husband, then threatened us. We had to leave.” Now, after being smuggled north and getting detained at the US border temporarily, the family is in Los Angeles with Kenia’s mother, who moved to the US years ago.

All those in the immigrant community who have made it through the desert and crossed our southern border have come here with one common experience that most of us lack, one which is central to faith in Jesus, going through the desert experience.

Jesus, just like these children, went through his own desert experience where he wrestled with the forces of evil and fought for his life. It was a miserable experience.

There is something about religion that always wants to make the miserable, sweet. In Christianity, just about anything that has to do with Jesus has been so sanitized and romanticized that you’d never know that Jesus lived a very trying and difficult life. He was born into poverty and died in poverty.

Most of Jesus’ ministry is not with the comfortable and affluent. It was with those who were suffering, suffering greatly. The terribly sad thing that we have done in sanitizing the story of Jesus’ life is that we have cut ourselves off from experiencing God’s presence in our lives when times are bad. When we are suffering. When we are in the hot, dry, barren desert and there is no water in sight. When our hopes are dashed. When our spirit is crushed.

Think about this for a moment. If Jesus were living in the US today, would he be walking in the desert with those kids fleeing violence, or sitting next to the judge that just trashed the hopes of families being kept together? Put like that, there is no doubt in my mind where we would find Jesus.

But what about our own lives? Do we find Jesus in the finery of all that we have or when we are lost in the desert wilderness wandering around looking for some way out, but not finding it?

Mark’s gospel offers an interesting insight that I had not noticed before. In this story, Jesus is led into the desert by the Holy Spirit and goes through a horribly difficult experience. He wrestles with the forces of evil and with his own sense of self. He is all alone, wrestling with his own demons. Well, almost all alone.

Rev. Talitha Arnold, one of our UCC pastors, noticed something in this story that I had not. She noticed that in Mark’s gospel there were angels in the desert-wilderness, who were with Jesus during his entire time in the desert. So why is that important?

Mark’s gospel isn’t “big” on angels. Matthew and Luke have angels everywhere. Angels are present from the announcement to Mary that she will give birth to the Christ-child to the announcement of the Resurrection outside the tomb on Easter day. (“He is not here! He is risen!”). So when Mark includes angels in his story of Jesus’ life, we should take notice. The presence of these angels is Mark’s way of saying something BIG is happening here.

What is that bigness? What is Mark trying to tell us about Jesus? How are our lives like Jesus’ lfie? That’s what we’ll focus on this Sunday as we begin the Season of Lent.

Lenten Blessings to you,

Dan

 

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

 Mark 1: 9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw the heavens open and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased.’

 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him.

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