FACING A NEW AND DANGEROUS REALITY Assembly of the Disciples in the Seventh Week of Assembly time.
In our scripture this morning from the book of Exodus, a new King has taken over who fears the people of God. The new King forgot all about Joseph, the Israelite slave who saved his country. Instead the King and his supporters are fixated on the growing number of immigrants and the threat that represents to their culture and privileges. No matter how harshly they are treated, the immigrants continue to multiply – for they have love!
We can feel many similarities in our own situation. After all, wasn’t Barack the descendent of slaves –and haven’t they forgotten him? Aren’t those in power focused on eliminating the millions of immigrants who have made this nation wealthy?
There are also many differences. Donald Trump will not be a king. We continue to have many ways to defend ourselves – if we are well organized. We need to carefully assess our situation and gather the strengths we need to confront it.
Remember the arrest of Elvira Arellano after 9/11. Remember the mood of the nation after 9/11. Remember the racism and the fear and the determination to sweep the nation of the undocumented. We were on the brink of immigration reform and suddenly the nation turned against us. Elvira was one of the first victims of that tidal wave of fear and hate.
I want you to think about Elvira today as we confront a new political reality in the United States – and a new mobilization of hate and racism. She has returned! She is here with her U.S. citizen son and with her Honduran partner and her new Honduran son. The title of our book is Elvira’s Faith. That faith –– has prevailed for her family and its next generations, and that faith will prevail for millions if we livein action.
Our last scripture today focused on the commission, the message, to the disciples from Jesus. The disciples must have asked: why did Jesus have to be crucified? If he was another Moses, why didn’t he just lead them to freedom? But the world had changed. All the lands were part of the empire. So Jesus told them to create, a kingdom loyal to God within the kingdoms controlled by the empire.
Our third scripture today comes from Nehemiah. The prophet called on his people to rebuild the walls around their community – and to prepare to defend themselves as they rebuilt. They established an emergency response team to go to the defense of any of their people when they heard the sound of the trumpet blowing.
So let’s first assess our situation. We have just seen an election that was in fact. If you had attended the angry racist rallies that propelled Trump’s victory you would feel the racism, you would know what motivated Trump’s voters to the polls. If you analyzed the racist, right wing organizations that propelled his campaign you would know that those racist organizations were now in a position of power. You would know that this election was in fact a race riot.
Let’s analyze Trump’s victory. In fact, Clinton and the democrats won the popular vote. 49% of the voters n the U.S. voted for Clinton and the democrats. 48% voted for Trump and the Republicans. Over 50% of eligible voters did not vote. Those are the facts. There are two nations among the voters of this country, of equal numbers, a third nation of those who do not participate – and a fourth nation that is disenfranchised and cannot vote.
How did Trump win when he lost the popular vote? The United States grew from the determination to keep white Europeans in control. That is why Trump and the Republicans could get fewer votes but end up controlling the Presidency, both Houses of Congress – and soon the Supreme Court. It is an apartheid structure that has been made worse by state laws and federal laws which disenfranchise millions of people of color.
It was not just the racist structure of this political system that produced Trump’s victory. It was also the failure of the democrats to mobilize the people who would have voted with them. Many did not trust them. How long did we have to fight them on the issues of mass deportation and mass incarceration? How many were deported under their control? Moreover, the democrats did not trust the people. Trump gathered the racists in mass rallies across the nation, giving them the power to mobilize themselves. The democrats relied on a bureaucratic campaign structure to identify and run its voters to the polls.
Trump’s victory also falls at the feet of our movement. We marched and confronted and organized unity for twenty years. Yet during the actual election time the movement went to sleep, relying on the Democratic Party. Appeals to mobilize over the summer and fall fell on the deaf ears of organization leaders and politicians concerned with what positions or advantages they could get from a Clinton administration.
So here we are. There are dangerous threats to public education, health care, to employment opportunities and most of all to racial justice. None of these threats are as dangerous as the threat to the undocumented. That is a fact. On January 20thPresident Trump takes control of ICE and he has committed to eliminate the executive orders we won from Obama. He has also threatened to deport millions. While others may lose opportunities and may face increased injustice, loss of political position, the undocumented face deportation and separation from their families.
With the prophet Nehemiah we must tell our people to act with faith and courage. We must say: Don’t panic! Don’t act out of fear! Instead we must rebuild our defenses and we must defend each other from particular attacks while we rebuild our structure of defense. We must stand on our faith to build a “new nation” within this nation that can transform this country. We must remember that God always works through those who have the least rights, the least status, and the least security to bring his message of justice to the world. Those who are undocumented are the conscience of this nation at a time when the United States is sorely in need of conscience.
So what must we do?
When Jesus was resurrected he first appears to Mary and the disciples. He had spent the time of his ministry educating them, showing them and teaching them about the faith. His ministry depended on these disciples carrying on after his crucifixion. Even when they abandoned him, he forgave them and continued to work with them and teach them.
After his crucifixion he appears to Mary and asks her to call the disciples together. When he appears to the disciples, he tells them that God is with them, that what they bind on earth will be bound from heaven. He calls on them to follow his teaching – and then he commands them to go and make disciples of all the people.
When he appeared to Peter and the disciples who had gone back to fishing he shows them the miraculous catch of fish to let them know that there is an abundance of people they can fish for in rebuilding the movement. Remember how God spoke to Elijah on the mountain and told him to stop feeling isolated and alone and go to the seven thousand God has preserved for his movement, seven thousand that had not bowed down. In the same way, Jesus called the disciples together on the mountain and told them to stop feeling alone and to reach out and organize the faithful.
The first thing the disciples did was to replace Judas, who had betrayed Jesus, with another disciple. Their number was twelve – twelve individuals who represented the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus called them to be strong in their own unity – and strong in their commitment to all the tribes of Israel, not just to themselves.
The first lesson we must take to heart today is the call to be disciples: to be obedient to the teachings and the sacrifice of Jesus, to be unified and strong among ourselves, to commit ourselves to all of our people and to put God and God’s people before our own selfish interest and security. Today, when you come to communion, when you come to take in the body and blood of Jesus, when you come to become the people of God, search your heart to respond to this call to be a disciple.
So what must we do now?
First we must gather those who would be disciples, the totally committed, in their faith and in their actions. We must replace those who truly defected and forgive those who abandoned us and reestablish our unity. We must learn the lesson that we cannot rely on the politicians to defend us. At the same time we must build strong relationships with our allies. We must take steps to defend our people and to respond when the trumpet blows, when anyone of us is attacked.
We have already begun to organize our 10-10-10, our preparation for mobilization and our preparation to mobilize to defend any who are under attack. We know that our strength is in our numbers. Our first initiative is to recruit those who will recruit ten others and build our organized resistance. We have begun to research our legal defenses and begun to assemble lawyers that will work with us. We are reaching out to our allies and to those we can build unity with.
Yet our success, our survival, depends on the number and faith of the disciples. So today we are calling on those who will make that commitment, who will join in Bible Study with us every week, who will take on responsibilities in our movement, who will recruit other disciples, who are willing to sacrifice even their own liberty for their people. Remember that the disciples that Jesus taught were ordinary people, fishermen and field workers, young men and women with no status. From these came the greatest movement in the history of the world.
As we reflect on this last week in our spiritual journey this year we should keep all that we have learned in this time of assembly.
We learned the importance of assembling in our spiritual centers, assembling with the prophets. To meet these new and harsher and more dangerous realities we must ask for a renewed commitment to building our churches, to showing up every week and bringing others with us.
Second we learned the importance of building out from our spiritual centers an organization of the families, Familia Latina Unida. We need now to build that membership, family by family.
Third, we learned the importance of bringing the next generation into the midst of our faith and our struggle now. No movement can sustain itself without new generations taking their place in it. That means we must build on the foundation we have built with the FuerZa Juventud and greatly increase its membership and its leadership.
Fourth we learned to assemble all the parts of our ministry in one well ordered blessed community, working without egos, working in complete honesty, joined in common faith and common commitment.
Fifth we learned to assemble in a common belief, a common vision, that God has a purpose for those who have come to this country and that as long as we work to fulfill that purpose to transform this nation, God will protect us and guide us.
Sixth, we learned to assemble those who are born again, those who can put aside regrets and frustrations, fears and angers, betrayals and distrusts, those who can accept the spiritual miracle of being born again, ready for the struggle, ready to serve God and his people.
And so today we complete our spiritual year and prepare to begin again – like the farmer who must return to prepare the soil to plant a new crop. For the next seven weeks we will be in the time of preparation. It will be an active preparation as we prepare an army to build the walls of our defense and defend ourselves as we build.
Just as Jesus depended on his disciples to give new life to his movement so we depend on those who will be disciples as we begin a new year. You may not think that God has chosen you to be a disciple. You will not know unless you try to be one, unless you begin to act like a disciple and let God fill you with the power of the Holy Spirit. Pray to the Lord to increase your faith. I am telling you that God answers a pure heart. God will make you his disciple. He WILL bring you into that special circle of twelve. Share the last supper now with Jesus, in communion, as his disciples did on that last night. Let that last supper be your first supper. Seek the light - and the darkness of fear and selfishness will begin immediately to disappear. You are more than you think you are because you belong to God – and there is no greater God than our God.
Stand and prepare to come to the communion table as we sing together: Dame Fe. Dame Fe.
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES FOR THE 7TH WEEK IN ASSEMBLY
Exodus 1:6-12 A new king came to power in Egypt...
6 Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, 7 but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.8 Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. 9 “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh.12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites
Nehemiah 4:16-20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet,
16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, 18 and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.19 Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”
Matthew 28:16-20 The Great Commission
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”