This church grew out of the struggle of our families against separation by unjust immigration laws. Some of their children were undocumented “dreamers”; others were born here and were citizens. As their children grew up to be young adults they faced the dual threat of mass deportation and mass incarceration, racial profiling and police murder.
In any struggle the most important development is for “the next generation” to take up, continue and raise the level of that struggle. For this reason we honor this Sunday “The Next Generation”.
In the church, each week, we participate in the journey through the seasons of each year. Each year, as we meet the individual, spiritual and social challenges before us, we seek growth and strength through our faith. There is however, another way to look at our journey as the journey of our lifetimes – both the life times of our families and our individual lifetimes. Just as we formed Familia Latina Unida to carry on collectively – and spiritually – our struggle so we have to discern the way in which the next generations in our families can come together to support each other and to support the struggle.
The Fuerza Juventud was formed to meet the challenges of mass deportation. Coming from high schools and communities throughout the city they marched and demonstrated – and really took the lead in mobilizing on behalf of themselves and their families. They learned from the generation that came before them – and they taught us as well.
The Fuerza took on the challenge of the 20 year death gap that affects our community. For millions of undocumented and legal permanent residents, there is no access to health insurance. Regular check-ups are put off and too often chronic diseases like heart disease, breast cancer and diabetes go undetected and untreated until it are too late. As a result many in our community die 20 years sooner than those in more affluent communities. The Youth Health Service Corps formed in five high schools and a half dozen elementary schools. The students received instruction from medical student volunteers and support in screening and finding treatment for their families and neighbors. Over the years, many thousands of people have been reached – and years added to their lives.
We learned something from this effort. Medical School students supported College students and college students supported high school students and high school students supported elementary school students: they supported them in their effort to serve their families and their people, to struggle for them in health care as they had struggled for them with immigration.
In the scriptures today we read about Elijah and Elisah and about the prodigal son. When the great prophet Elijah was close to dying his disciple Elisah asked him to give him double his power to struggle for his people. Elijah told him to watch as he was taken up to heaven – and that if he could watch him all the way he would indeed receive the double power.
Then we read about the prodigal son. The youngest son chose to break from the family and go his own way. He made a lot of mistakes and squandered his wealth. When he returned his father welcomed him back with a banquet but this made the older son angry – and frankly jealous. The father said, “Why are you jealous. The Kingdom has always been yours. We should celebrate for he was lost and now he is found!”
Elijah and Elisah teach us that each generation must learn from the generation that comes before, studying them right to the moment of death. The older brother and the prodigal son teach us that each new generation must be patient with the next generation and forego jealousy as they take their place in the struggle. These are lessons that help us understand how each new generation can take its place. Our challenge is to organize this process in our ministry – and develop the leadership that can carry it through.
We identified four main areas of struggle over the last years: the struggle against mass deportation, the struggle against criminalization and mass incarceration, the struggle for a relevant education and the struggle to serve the people in health care.
You know too well the reality of families being separated by the unjust immigration laws. Every day you see friends caught up in the violence in the street and harassed and disrespected by police. You have seen many of your brothers and sisters put in prison. The killings in the street and the police murders are well publicized. Yet the two million mostly African American and Latinos who are incarcerated in prison is only beginning to become known. This is a nation with 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prison population.
Even in the youth of this church we have seen brothers and sisters shot down. We have seen young men incarcerated when they should have been going to school or getting married and having children. And we have seen how a single arrest can give you a record that shatters your plans for the future.
We have learned how the immigration laws and the criminalization of young people by the police and the courts run together. Right now we have three young fathers who made it through the early years of their lives but acquired arrests and records and sometimes prison terms. Because they are undocumented or only legal permanent residents they are now fighting deportation. How unfair that a person born here can get arrested, serve time and then go on with their life – while a person who came here when they were very young children goes through the same process and is grabbed up, separated from their wife and children and sent to a country where they don’t know anyone!
As we learned about the injustices of the health care system and the 20 year death gap – twenty years of life taken away because people were African American or Latino or not a citizen – we found that young people in high school and even in elementary school could organize effectively to do something about this. They confronted the issue of transplants for non-citizens, got results for individuals and changed the law! While others talked – 1500 young people walked the walk and got something done!
At the same time, a program to become strong in body through exercise and physical training and better diet and dance and martial arts is developing.
Critical to our movement has been the contributions of young people through music and art and video. Music lifts our spirits and brings us together. The songs of the struggle written right here united the hearts of our people everywhere. The art and the videos they made have carried our message beyond our reach.
In the coming year we are going to take on the issue of education. Actually Sin Fronteras, from which this church grew, played a key role in ending overcrowded schools in this city and in protecting bi-lingual education. But we have to go a lot further.
What good is a high school or college diploma if you don’t know who you are, if you don’t know your history and place in modern day society? We have Mexicans that don’t know the history of Mexico, Salvadorans that don’t know the history of El Salvador and so on. As a result they don’t know why their families came here. They don’t know the policies and the actions of the United States which have caused so much poverty, violence and suffering in those countries – because if they knew they could change them. They could change those policies because Latinos are the fastest growing people in this country and have growing political power. A U.S. citizen Latino turns 18 every minute in this country!
So we are going to have to fight for access to the knowledge we need, the knowledge of the truth about this country – and the truth about who we are. And what they won’t teach in the schools we will teach ourselves! Some of the Fuerza are going to Cuba this summer, the first of many trips they will make to understand the world around them.
We have said that the motto of the FuerZa is to “grow strong in Mind, in Body, in Spirit and in Community” so that they can continue the struggle more effectively. So I want to say something about Spiritual strength – and about the church.
I know many young people think the churches are hypocritical, irrelevant and boring. That is because they are. In fact, Jesus was crucified because he challenged the hypocrisy of the church of his time. When we study scripture each week, we see that the Word prepared a people to survive and grow strong when they were dispersed to hostile countries. It taught them how to form communities of resistance and joined them together spiritually so unity could be achieved. And it teaches us today how to be righteous in a confused and confusing world – and how to achieve the unity we need.
We formed this church in a special way to overcome the divisions in the Latino community that the different religions were causing. We formed this church to bring people from different churches – some of which had sold out – into the struggle and support of the struggle. The fruits of this effort have been shown in our struggle for justice in the fight against the deportations where unity was achieved in Latino churches of all kinds.
We are encouraging the next generation to study the Bible together – to learn from its wisdom, to be guided in their own spiritual development. We encourage you to learn how to pray and meditate. We also encourage the next generation to attend service each week. It will put you in touch with the traditions of your people, traditions that you need to hold on to if you are not to be assimilated and homogenized into non-descript zombies in a racist materialist society.
Some of our greatest leaders like Malcolm X and Martin King, Caesar Chavez and Lolita Lebron have gone deep and found the strength of the Spirit that overcomes even death; the strength that gives righteousness the strength to survive and overcome both cultural corruption and social injustice. If you seek with us, you will find with us.
Look, too often we are just sloppy in our lives and our relationships. We lack the discipline to live effectively. We get caught up in gossip and unnecessary divisions. We jump into relationships and have children before those relationships have been tested. You affiliate with people before you know what they are really about. When you understand that you are under attack as a generation then you have to get serious about how you think, how you live and how you spend your time. Life isn’t really that long – and pretty soon you won’t be young anymore – but mistakes you make now can cost you big time.
It is true that youth is a time of preparation. It is also true that in every people who have survived there has been a time when their next generation gave their hearts and time completely to the struggle. Every age provides a way to be part of the struggle of a people. But there is a time - between when you first know your own mind and the time you have big family responsibilities - when you can be the army of your people.
Spiritual Strength and direction, going deep both on your own and together, is not just something to do or not to do – it is also about survival.
There is a lot of mess out there. Young people are doing serious harm to each other, taking lives, disrespecting each other. Yes there is violence out there but the society we live in works only to suppress the violence, to drive it off one corner to another, to keep it out of a school, to sweep it under the rug – and that philosophy of suppression is why they are filling the prisons and deporting millions of your generation. In the movement, in the struggle and in the church, we are about transformation not suppression. God don’t make no junk! Like the prodigal son you may get off the track but we need the collective strength and organization and friendship to be there to get you right as soon as you are ready.
Transformation takes place day by day, week by week, when you become part of a community of faith, a community that puts God’s Justice first – but also a community that is unselfish - in which the members stand with each other and are willing to sacrifice for each other. That community prays together and analyses together with the guidance of the Word. That community also serves their people together persistently through organized programs like the youth health service corps. That is very important because it provides for revolutionizing practice to transform attitudes. It replaces the culture of death with a culture of respect for life. It replaces a culture of individualism, materialism and competition with a culture of collective struggle and purpose.
Spiritual Strength is about Faith – but faith is not about believing in what some preacher teaches. Faith is about learning to live in unity with your people, with your ancestors, with generations yet to come and with the forces of creation. Faith is learning to live with the destiny you have been given, planted here to transform this nation. Faith is about faithfulness to principle and friendship and family. Faith is about courage. That is why we sing, Lord, Give me a Heart Big enough for Love and a Heart Strong enough for Struggle.
Strong in Mind, Strong in Body, Strong in Spirit and Strong in Community. That’s what we are talking about. We are talking about the force of the next generation. We are depending on you! It is step up time!
In the next few months we are going to figure out together how to organize ourselves better. We are going to get a stronger structure, an organized unity, in the high schools. We are going to work more closely to both defend and bring together the warriors in the street – so that we are not defenseless before our enemies. We are going to find a way of organized unity for the students in college so that they can use the knowledge they are gaining and can be a force for change and development. We are looking at the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of young people who have organized independently using their talents – as musicians, artists, instructors – so that they can collectively educate, organize and mobilize the hundreds of thousands of people they are reaching.
In the next few weeks we are going to get out the vote to Dump the Trump because he is a danger to human beings – in fact an insult to human beings and to our ancestors in heaven. If somehow this child of Satan wins then we are going to get tight – because we are not going where he wants to take this country. If Clinton wins – as I think she will – we are going to start organizing in the schools and in the streets right away to make her keep her promises – and to fight further for what God has promised our people.
Look up! There’s old Elijah! There’s Zapata and the Zapatistas! There’s Rudy Lozano! There’s Malcolm X. There’s Lolita Lebron! Here’s a whole cloud of witnesses, those who gave their lives for justice, for their people. They are calling for you. They are crying out to you. They are saying you can do more than we did. You can have the double power! It’s within your reach - if it’s in your hearts. You are not alone. We are with you – but look to each other. There is a Kingdom more powerful than any nation, more powerful than any bunch of politicians, more powerful than any army – it is the Kingdom of God. It is a righteous Kingdom. It is a Kingdom of NO Compromise. It is a Kingdom where there is no injustice and where there is no fear or doubt. God has placed that Kingdom in your hearts – but it will only live if you join your hearts together, Love each other. Sacrifice for each other. Stand by each other. Never give up on each other. Lean on each other. Love your people! Make each other stand straight. You are the next generation! You are not only the future you are the present! You are the Oaks of Righteousness God has planted to transform this nation. To God Be the Glory! To God Be the Glory!
The Holy Scriptures for the Third Week in the Time of Assembly
Matthew 23:1-7 A Warning Against Hypocrisy
23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacterieswide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others
Luke 15:17-32 The Parable of the Lost Son
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. ..’ 20 So he got up and went to his father….“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. ….28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
. 2 Kings 2: 7-12 Elijah Taken Up To Heaven
7 Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground. 9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. 10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.” 11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.