Monday, July 16, 2007

stranger in a strange land

“You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19)
“A wandering Aramean was my ancestor…” (Deuteronomy 26:5).

Two or three years ago at the Bishop’s conference on borderland and immigration issues, held at St. Philip’s in the Hills, Tucson, someone asked, is there any thing in the Bible that speaks to these issues?

Imagine yourself a new widow: your husband is gone, your brother-in-law, your father-in-law. Your land is desolate, in famine. You travel. You walk, with your mother-in-law, seventy miles across the desert, seeking life, a way to live, a way to earn your bread, and you come to a town on the other side where the grain is ripe in the fields and the workers are among the crops to harvest them.

And then word comes down to you: DO NOT WORK IN AMERICA. Go, Ruth, take your mother-in-law Naomi, and go back to Moab. Let her starve. Live in grief. Do not become the great-grandmother of David. Do not let his son our Savior be born. Go back across the desert. Leave us alone. Starve. Grieve.

I don’t think so. That is not what the Bible teaches us. From the story of Ruth we learn: Do not begrudge the harvest fruits to the poor: let them glean. Take up the cause of the widow. Defend the poor and hungry (Psalm 82:3). Then, when righteousness and peace have kissed each other (Psalm 85:10), you will dwell in the land in safety.

During the week of the Fourth of July, in Tucson, a leader and elder in that community received a visit from a new member of Congress. She talked with her about immigration and our need for a new approach – not confronting each other but working together.

She held up her hands as if to push away The Other, and then moved them, turning them around to face each other and interlacing her fingers, to show that we must work together. Speaking practically, she suggested training for employment could begin across the border, so that people who live there could have a future and a hope. Remember this is God’s promise to us, to his people, fulfilled through Jesus and through Jesus’ hands in the world: our own.

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Serving Jesus as we serve the least of these we see around us is what we do: not just so that we can all get along, but so that we can all go forward together into God’s kingdom, where peace and righteousness embrace.

Show us your mercy, O LORD, and grant us your salvation. I will listen to what the LORD God is saying, for he is speaking peace to his faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to him. Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him: that his glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring up from the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven. The LORD will indeed grant prosperity, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness shall go before him, and peace shall be a pathway for his feet. (Psalm 85:7-13) AMEN.

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