Today we honor those families that have defended their right to stay together and those families who have been reunited through our struggle. They are joined together today to pray for those families that are still facing separation or who still struggle to be reunited. It is the season of Assembly, the season in which we recognize God’s intervention in our life’s journey this year – and assemble those whose faith has been increased so we can prepare for next year. So today we assemble the families and our ministry of Familia Latina Unida.
We began this year understanding that this would be a year of great danger – and a year of great promise. Both the danger and the promise are upon us as we wait on the results of the election 30 days from today. Donald Trump has committed his administration to mass deportation. Hillary Clinton has committed her administration to stopping the separation of families. The result of this election will affect every one of our families in the most serious way. In such a time we turn to our faith – and to our community.
We began this season of assembly last week by “Assembling with the Prophets.” We recalled the voice of the prophets to put no other authorities before God. We remembered the witness of Jesus and the witness of his disciples who chose to follow the law of God even when that meant defying the law of governments. That command had led our church to establish afor those ordered to report for deportation, to collectively defy that law and to follow the law that “What God had joined together, no man should separate.”
We also recalled the voice of the prophets that called us to form communities that bound themselves together in love and faithfulness and unity. We recalled the teaching of Jesus that prophetically prepared a people to form these communities of faith when they were dispersed from their homelands into often hostile countries.
These two instructions from the prophets form the basis for our church and make the church the center of our. Today we seek to understand God’s purpose for our families. We will see that the church is in truth a family of families – and that through the outreach of the families in their neighborhoods a people are made strong and given a clear purpose from God.
In our first scripture, Joseph’s father is dying. Remember Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and taken to Egypt. But Joseph rose to a high position in Egypt and provided for his brothers and his fathers to come to Egypt so they could survive the famine in their native land.
You see, their family had been separated. And there had been betrayals. The family was in disorder because of forces beyond their control. They came lost. Yet Joseph forgave his brothers and brought the whole family together. He gave them land and set them on a good course. In the scripture, Jacob, the father of Joseph, is blessing the sons Joseph had in Egypt and telling Joseph that Joseph’s sons born in Egypt are also his sons. That they are all one family - finally united.
It is a beautiful story. In fact it is the main story that lasts all the way through the Bible for the Bible is the story of one family, the family of Abraham, that grew in numbers and gave rise to many tribes or peoples but remained united through all the difficulties of the times.
Why is family so important? It is from family that we learn about love. A father or a mother does not envy their children. In fact, when their children do well they rejoice and are happy for them. They sacrifice for them so that their life will be better. That is the love we learn in family.
It is not easy to love like this. When someone we know does well, when they get a break, most of us think “Why them and not me?” Yet if we love them, if we have the love given by god in our hearts we do not envy them we rejoice for them. That kind of love can hold a whole community, a whole people together and make them strong. To the extent we have that love in our heart, the love that comes from God; we get that gift mostly from family.
There is great disorder in the world and we know that disorder is born of sin. Sometimes I pray for this nation for there is no greater sin than for a nation to seek to destroy and separate what God has joined together – as this nation did in the time of slavery and as this nation continues to do every day. The disorder this nation creates through its arrogance and greed and racism has caused a sea of violence in our communities and all down the continents of the Americas. It is a disorder that we must steel our children and our people against so that they do not fall prey to it – and do not become a part of it. For that strength we turn first to the family.
So from scripture we learn that family helps us to create order in our lives, order in the midst of the disorder and injustice around us. But we also learn that it is the order of unselfish love, of the love God puts in our hearts.
Now we know that families are not perfect. Look at Joseph, sold by his brothers into slavery because they envied the favor his father had for him. Yet Joseph forgave them. Forgiveness is also a lesson we learn from family, the forgiveness that God puts in our hearts.
So family is not perfect and yet, family is born of perfection. When Jesus was just beginning to start his ministry he went with his mother to a wedding in Cana in Galilee. At the wedding they had run out of wine. Mary, the mother of Jesus, asked Jesus to solve their problem. Jesus at first said no because he was not yet ready to expose his powers to do miracles. It was dangerous. It was not on his timetable for his most important work. But Mary went on as if he had agreed and instructed the men to “follow his instructions.” Then we read that Jesus changed the water into wine – the best wine you could find anywhere! Jesus made the wine with his blood that we celebrate in communion, the time in which we are made one in the Spirit with God.
You see, families begin with the love between two people. They may have been with others. They may have even loved others. Yet when the family is really ready to be formed, something wonderful happens. That is the union we celebrate in marriage. We celebrate their union before – and with God.
Like Jesus, they may not think they are ready. But ready or not, something sweeps them along. And on that day, when they make their vows before God, they have a perfect union of unselfish love, of a commitment to live a righteous and faithful life with each other.
Yes marriages are not perfect and families are not perfect. But they are born of a blessing from God and they inherit a destiny from God. Each year we go through struggles. We face life which disorders our lives. We lose sight of our purpose and we may even hurt the ones we love. Yet if we just try to find God’s way, the purpose God has for us, then each year we will find what we need to renew our love, to renew our faithfulness and to renew our marriages.
Still in spite of our efforts, sometimes our families are broken into pieces. This may happen through the injustices that disorder our lives – and often it happens because of our own selfishness or our own confusions. We strive for the perfection of family but fall to our own imperfections and the imperfection of the world around us. This is not God’s work – but the work of the devil. Yet God provides for us to put broken pieces together and form new families. In this we discover more profoundly the purpose of the family.
God spoke to Abraham and made with him a covenant that from Abraham and Sarah would come a great people. Moses brought that people out of slavery and brought them to a mountain in the wilderness where they pledged to become a people that would make God’s way known in the world. When that people were dispersed from their land by an evil empire, Jesus gave them the teaching to form communities of faith wherever they went – joined together by that faith to practice and make known the way of God.
Over the last hundred years millions of people have been brought to this country from Latin America. They have faced discrimination and injustice. At times they have been deported and separated from their families here. Yet as with God’s covenant with Abraham, God has “greatly increased their numbers” – and now they are the largest single group in the country! Old families were separated but new families were formed from the broken pieces. Families come in many shapes and sizes. Listen to what Jesus says:
A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
What makes a family is the purpose that God gives it – and the unselfish love that binds it together. When families have come to our church, facing injustice and separation – or facing problems between them in their families – they discover the “Family of Families.” Think of the challenge we face in this next election. The undocumented have been incorporated into a family of families which makes up of almost the entire Latino community. They would be defenseless in this election – which may well determine their future – if it were not for those who can vote in the Latino community. Now the Latino vote is at the very core of Clinton’s campaign against Trump. Latinos are not really voting for Hillary Clinton, they are voting for the family of families which includes your families!
We know how this family of families has come about. The undocumented married those with papers. Undocumented parents had U.S. citizen children. Mexicans married Puerto Ricans who were citizens. Central Americans married Latinos who were citizens. From this creation of new families a new Latino unity was born: a people that understood their own history, the forces that had brought them here, the injustice they faced together – and, gradually, the purpose that God had for them, the reason God had planted them here to be oaks of righteousness in this land.
This process of becoming a family of families strengthens us – each of us. A mother left alone with her children finds she is not alone but a loved part of a family of families that both needs her and supports her. Fathers that have been deported but returned to help raise their children – at risk of prison - are protected by the family of families that now make up the Latino community.
This process of becoming a family of families, the process of often forming new families from broken pieces, makes some people more conscious of their purpose, more committed in their faith. That does not happen all at once, like a tidal wave. It is a process that comes about person by person, family by family, the way we see the stars come out at night until they fill the sky. Yet those who have become aware, those who have become more aware this year, now form an important force as we face either the danger or the promise of the year to come.
The best things in the family are also the seeds of what can make a strong community, a people of God standing strong and unified.
Within the family we practice cooperative economics – sharing the responsibilities and rewards, utilizing the talents of each person, trying to meet the needs of each person. In that family practice is the seed of communities that practice cooperative economics instead of competing against each other.
Within the family we look after the health of each member. We have seen in our own ministry how when we organize as a family of families we can defeat the 20 year death gap that separates our community from those who have insurance and regular doctors.
Familia Latina Unida/Sin Fronteras was born when a dozen families, each facing separation by the broken law, began to struggle together. Their witness, their organizing, brought new life and new definition to the struggle of millions. Two million marched through the streets of the cities. Then God shown a light on a humble church and on one of these mothers who was fighting separation from her U.S. citizen son. For one year the message of Latino family unity was carried into the homes of tens of millions.
Each of those original families had their own problems, their own bonds of love, their own dreams – and yet their faith bound them together to fight for each other and God showed his approval.
Just as we have seen the family of families giving strength to each family so we have seen families that rejected the call to come together. Often we have seen these families who chose isolation turn towards selfishness and we have seen selfishness destroy their families. They give us a lesson – and they are welcomed when they return to us.
This is our vision. At the center is our “seven churches”, the churches we are building to put the law of the prophets at the center of our movement. From those centers of faith and renewal of faith comes the membership and the work of Familia Latina Unida. From that membership comes an example and leadership that unites and strengthens the whole community.
We have seen many victories come from that vision. In years to come I believe that we will see that the history of the Americas will be changed by it. As we complete the seven weeks of the time of Assembly we will discuss together other challenges – and purposes – God has given us. Next week we will look at the organization of the next generation that is rising from the family of families. We have learned that to sustain a struggle over many years – as we have done – there must be a way for the next generation to take up the struggle and the leadership.
But today, this Sunday, I invite you to look around you. Look at the families here who have persevered. Look at the families who have been reunited. Look at the families that have formed from broken pieces. Just feel the love that God gives us, the unselfish love that transforms individuals into a people of God from the unity of families, that make God’s witness alive and present in the world.
Feel the love, in the midst of struggle, and let your faith grow inside you. No matter what we have to face in the results in the next election, in the years to come, that love will sustain us in God’s purpose and God will protect us so we can do his will.
We thank God. We praise him for his many gifts and blessings. We ask only that He increase our faith – for by faith, all things are possible! Dame Fe, Senor. Dame Fe!
The Holy Scriptures For The Second Week In The Time Of Assembly
Genesis 17: 1-7 The Covenant with Abram
17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty[a];walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” 3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram[b]; your name will be Abraham,[c] for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
Genesis 48:1-5 Manasseh and Ephraim
Some time later Joseph was told, “Your father is ill.” So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him. 2 When Jacob was told, “Your son Joseph has come to you,” Israel rallied his strength and sat up on the bed. Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty[a] appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me 4 and said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.’ 5 “Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine.
Mark 3:28-35 Who are my mother and my brothers
31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” 33 Who are my mother and my brothers “?” he asked. 34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”