It is assembly time – the time when we gather up the best in ourselves and each other; when we gather up what God has made of us this year. We began with an assembly WITH the prophets. We affirmed our spiritual center in which we recognize no higher authority than a God of justice and love – and where all follow the instruction to live in unselfish love towards each other. Together in this spiritual center we stand on Holy Ground and we are renewed in our faith.
In the second week we celebrated the gathering of the families – and our ministry of Familia Latina Unida that has spread outward from our spiritual center into the lives of millions of families fighting to stay together.
In the third week, we celebrated the assembly of the next generation, a generation that rose up to meet the challenge of sustaining our struggle in its second decade. As with Familia Latina Unida, the spiritual center provided for needed transformation as the Fuerza Juventud organized thousands of young people, with and without papers, to confront the twenty year death gap, taking preventive health care to the community and fighting for the access denied the undocumented even by Obamacare. They joined the struggle against mass deportation with the struggle against mass incarceration, racial profiling and police murder, as the cry of the people that “no human being is illegal” was joined with the righteous proclamation that “Black and Brown Lives Matter.”
In this the fourth week of assembly time, we seek guidance in the challenge of bringing our struggle into yet another decade in which the array of forces against the people of God are taking new and more dangerous forms.
We are still a people under attack. Today we are standing with three fathers under order of deportation, two held in detention – loving fathers whose families need them. We find a whole generation of young adults caught in the double barreled attack of criminalization and immigration laws, given records by police and then forced into deportation by ICE because of those records. We are standing with mothers whose husbands have been deported, working to put food on the table for their children and to support their husbands from whom they are separated. We are praying and struggling for them today.
We have won many victories and helped to bring Latinos to unity and to a new position of power and respect in this nation – but the realities of injustice we face every day keeps us in the struggle. To continue our struggle and to face the new threat of a mobilized movement of hate and racism, we need to gather in our strength. Just as each family, and each group of young people, turn to the inner strength of faith and transformation to survive, so as a movement we need to know from where our strength comes.
Dr Martin Luther King used to talk about his vision of “the beloved community”. It was a vision of a community built on the unselfish love demonstrated to the world by the Jesus we read about in scripture – and who we know through the Spirit. King saw a community like that promised in the book of Revelations when the Kingdom of God would come down and exists between human hearts, when the lion would lay down with the lamb. He lived by what Jesus taught – and by the way he lived as he gave his life for his people.
It was a vision of a community that Jesus called for in which we could transform our relationships because we felt God’s love for us and lived in that love with each other. That it why he called it the “beloved community” – the community that was loved by God.
The great Indian Leader Mohatma Ghandi taught us that “we must become the change we want to make.” That instruction leads us to strengthen our spiritual center, our assembly with the prophets, as we organize the family of families and the force of the next generation. Through faith we continue in the day to day struggle to transform ourselves, our families and the youth of our community. If we are successful than the days and years provide to our children the same love and direction as they grow up – the same love we feel from the God who loves us so much that he forgives us again and again, gives us a way to confess and renew our faith and stays with us through the most troubling of times. We learn to give that unconditional love to our babies and our young children so that through us they will know the love – and the unselfish courage and honesty– of Jesus.
Each week in our service we hear a beautiful child proclaim the Good News that Jesus brought to the world. That Good News told us that a new order could exist among us, that the order of the Kingdom could be established here on earth, here in our communities. How is this new “new order” established?
Yes, it is based on transformation which comes from the realization that God loves us – but also that God gives us a purpose to guide us. In the case of those dispersed here from the south – or from the east – God has planted a people here to transform this most powerful of nations. Yes, it is based in transformation, love and purpose but it is also based on “a new order.”
At the core of this new order is “responsibility”. What has God’s intervention in our affairs taught us this year about this “new order”, what have we learned from this year’s harvest?
We have seen that some of our young fighters have moved from the time of high school to the time in which they have more responsibility for their own survival and their own development. We have seen some of these young fighters – both from high school and college and from the street and from prison – take on the responsibility of being parents to their own children. That responsibility changes them. Some are defeated by it. Some turn inwards and care only about their own families. Yet in some we have seen the strength and the wisdom from above. We have seen them take responsibility for the movement we are building, for the beloved community.
The new order must begin by some of us here stepping up to take responsibility to sustain our spiritual center. As we begin preparation time next year your pastors will ask you to step up as we bring new structures to order our ministry. Ask God to guide your heart to take on these responsibilities.
From the spiritual center we will also have to re-order Familia Latina Unida and the FuerZa Juventud. We will need leaders responsible for organizing the Familia Latina Unida chapters. We will need the new leadership committees in the high schools to step up to responsibility to order the work of the youth health service corps. And we will have to find an order in which to organize the talents of young men and women – our musicians and artists, our video technicians, the leaders of “healthy hood” who give instruction to their own constituencies each week, the college students and the street organizations here and in prison – into a collective of collectives. We must also bring this new order to our national network of grassroots leaders – leaders who have emerged from our struggle and who we have come to know in struggle,
Some are not ready for these new responsibilities. They feel still too overcome with just holding together their own families, with the responsibility for their own survival and development. I just urge you to take the challenge seriously. As with any challenge in our faith and struggle, those not moving forward soon begin to move backwards, those not busy being reborn are busy dying in their faith.
The “beloved community” which we seek – and which we must become to bring to life – relies on accepting responsibility for the new order. That is what Stephen and the seven did at the time of Pentecost. The twelve disciples appointed Steven to order the work of feeding the people. Stephen and the seven stepped up to the responsibilities they were asked to take. They organized food for the people, survival and defense for the people, and they fed the people spiritually. Stephen lost his life by taking this responsibility – but he also knew the Kingdom of God and crossed the border that stands between life and death.
The seeds of a new faith, a new love, a new unity have been planted in you this year. The seeds have grown in you and matured and brought you to this year’s harvest. Now we are called to gather those who are ready to take on the responsibility for “the new order” of our faith and our “beloved community – just as the farmer binds the good wheat together in the field after the weeds have been stripped away and burned.
It would be a sin to have come so far and fall apart or let down now. There are new dangers. The election will create new possibilities to right wrongs, to get more justice for our families and for the next generations. Still the mobilization of millions by a campaign of racism and hate will not just disappear. There remains “an old order” of racism and hate that will outlast the election and which will continue to grow and resist God. We must meet hate with love, division with unity – and the old order with a new order of the beloved community.
We thank God for the ministry we have received. We also are called to pay attention to the scripture we read today about the gifts God gives us. The man who buried his gifts in the ground found he lost what was given to him. Those who used what they were given to grow and multiply those gifts received even more. We are reminded that to whom much is given much is expected.
When you take the Kingdom of God inside you, you receive the power to organize that Kingdom around you. That which gives you strength and peace, that which brings answers to your prayers, also prepares you to organize Gods people, to establish “the new order which is already here”. If you don’t use it, you will lose it.
If you take a little responsibility, you receive a little piece of the Kingdom. If you take a little more responsibility, you receive more of that blessed community. When you take complete responsibility than you receive the Kingdom in all its fullness and power – and the love that makes it “The Blessed Community.”
The Holy Scriptures for the Fourth Week in the Assembly
John 15:12-17 This is my command
12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
Acts 6:1-7The Choosing of the Seven
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews[a] among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widowswere being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters,choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
Luke 19:12-27 The Parable of the Ten Minas
12 “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas.[a] ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ (When he returned)16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. ….24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away.