The Campaign of Jesus and Donald Trump
Step 1: the Disciples
Third Week in the Time of Galilee
Our scriptures today teach of Jeremiah, whose calling to be a disciple was planted in him at birth; of the Prophet Isaiah who saw that his people had been planted to be Oaks of righteousness to transform nations; and Jesus, when he called his first disciples. Today it is our task to see how these scriptures can help us with our current situation. Let those who have ears hear!
Donald Trump is now the President of the United States. We struggled with Barack Obama for eight years and although he deported almost three million people, there was something in his heart that caused him finally to respond to the witness and the opposition of the people. Donald Trump does not appear to have anything like this in his heart. We do not know what he will do. We know that he responds to the mobilization of the people because he is an insecure man who seeks only to be popular, to be applauded. Yet we know the viciousness of those who have put him into power – for theirs is a movement of white nationalism and hate that seeks to stop the growing majority of people in this country.
We know and have heard the threats to deport millions. We know and have heard the threats to develop police forces that will subjugate the people of the city by force, label millions as criminals and put many in prison. Our people are fearful. Many have already gone into hiding. Some are thinking about going back across the border – and yet they fear the economic oppression and the violence that is there. They are between a rock and a hard place.
In fact we have seen times like this before. Even in those times we fought successfully. There are many here like Elvira who faced deportation and emerged victorious. Now, however, we have the fruits of our struggle. The numbers of the Latino community have grown like the corn in good soil and they have power. Moreover, the majority of the citizens in this country supports us and has linked their own opposition to Trump with theirs. Those who attended the inaugurationon Friday were fewer than expected and there were many empty spaces on the Washington mall. It was nothing like the inauguration of Barack Obama when over two million came. On Friday, our young people joined the resistance that sprang up in Washington and all across the country. On Saturday, hundreds of thousands marched in Washington, in cities across the country – and even in England – all in opposition to Donald Trump.
Yes we have fear but we are surrounded now by allies – and by a cloud of witnesses of our ancestors here and throughout the continent. You know Obama always closed his speeches saying “God Bless the United States of America.” Trump speaks differently. He closes his speeches with “God Bless America.” Perhaps he does not know that America is a continent – not a country. But perhaps he sees his mission to “bless” the whole continent and the people here from that continent, a blessing like that of the conquistadors who brought death and disease and dispersal to the original people, a blessing from his God of Mammon, his God of greed and money. Yet perhaps God intends for the resistance and the defeat of Trump to bring liberation to the whole continent and to all the people of the south. Perhaps he means it to awake the people of this country to the wickedness with which Latin America has been exploited.
We have been threatened but we do not know how things will go. We should not panic. We have many defenders in many places. Yet we should prepare.
Our task now is to organize a strong defense. We must nurture the young people who rise to that defense. We must have a forgiving spirit among our own people to develop unity and we must rely on our faith. Our unity must begin with bringing a new spirit and love to our families – and to our family of families in the church. We can replace fear with love if we have faith. Love drives out fear.
We have gained both inspiration and a guide to action from scripture, from the way our struggle and the witness of the people opened the scriptures to us, from the way they taught us to read the scriptures. To receive this inspiration and vision we had to put ourselves in the shoes of the people of God during the time of Jesus.
The people of God were afraid of the Romans. The Romans believed that that the people could not be controlled and prepared for a time when they would attack the people and destroy their temple. Jesus saw this. He was a person of great vision. He prophesied that the Romans would destroy the temple and scatter the people – and that occurred shortly after his crucifixion but he had prepared the people.
The people lived in fear. They lost faith in their own religion and tradition because the priests were hypocrites. The task of Jesus was to renew the faith of the people and prepare them to survive what was to come.
We read scripture now to understand how Jesus worked to give courage and vision to the people – for our situation today has many of the same challenges. In the weeks to come we will seek to understand how Jesus worked among the people – step by step.
The first step that Jesus took, after he was baptized by John when his leadership was made known to the people, after he began preaching the Good News, was to recruit disciples. He would recruit twelve disciples, representing the twelve tribes of the people of the one God. It was these disciples after the crucifixion who would keep alive his vision and his work for the people.
We read in scripture that when he called the first disciples, two fishermen, they dropped their work and followed him. How did they recognize him? What authority caused them to just pick up and follow him? How idd Jesus recognize them, just poor fishermen? Perhaps there was such a great spiritual presence in Jesus that they were attracted to him. Perhaps they and their people had long been waiting for a messiah, a savior, and they gambled that Jesus was that savior. Perhaps, like Jeremiah, they had been called at birth and that calling was already in their hearts. We do not know – but we know that these and finally ten more became his disciples. We know also that the recruitment and development of the disciples was the foundation of the work Jesus performed during his ministry. If we follow in his footsteps then it must also be the foundation of ours.
Today, the people of the south are scattered throughout this nation. They are divided. They are divided by religions they don’t control. They are divided by those who have papers and those who do not. They are divided because some have been here a long time and been assimilated and some have come recently. They are divided because the young who were born here have gone to schools that did not teach them their history or language.
The disciples today have the commission to unify the people in their own self-defense. This begins by renewing their faith and organizing the people to defend themselves at the same time. As we have followed the vision given to us through our reading of scripture we have accomplished many things. I have tried to document these things, these miracles. I won’t repeat these things today. Today, however, when we face the mass deportation threats of Donald Trump and his movement of white nationalism, we need to reflect on what we have not done well.
Our faith tells us that there are disciples among us. Our faith tells us that as we organize over the next months other disciples will come to us. Our faith tells us that they are already among us – even if they don’t know it. It has been placed in their hearts the way the Word was placed in the heart of Jeremiah.
Our task is to recognize these disciples – and to get them to recognize the Spirit that is in them. Jesus recognized them – and they recognized him. The first was Peter – then called Simon – a fisherman. Jesus told him that he would make him a fisher of men, a disciple. One by one, Jesus put together his band of disciples, including the one called Judas who would betray him. The betrayer was part of his vision, one of the final lessons he would teach his disciples.
The disciples are among us. I am sure of it. Perhaps they are here this morning. Perhaps they were among the hundreds of young people who walked out of their schools. Perhaps they were among those who faced deportation and were kept here through our work, the work in which the Lord led us. Perhaps they are among the hundreds of dreamers we have met as we helped them apply for DACA. Perhaps they are among those who we distrust or who have failed us before but will be reborn.
The Spirit is not strong enough in me to see what is in the hearts of the people, to recognize the disciples. Yet the scripture can lead us over the next weeks to find them. Some of you may recognize them. Some of you may recognize the disciple in yourselves.
Jesus will bring the disciples who followed him as he heals and drives out the demons that have been placed in them by oppression and assimilation. He will teach them that they have the power of many when he feeds the five thousand. Finally he will take Peter and one other to the mountain with him to see him transfigured. Yet time and time again they will fail to see what he teaches. He will tell them, “You of little faith.” Yet it was enough that they would walk with him until they finally believed. That is the Way of the faith: first you follow; first you walk with Him and then belief is given to you.
He will take them and teach them as he makes the journey to Jerusalem to confront the hypocrites that control the people – and the Romans that control the hypocrites. The disciples will hide and run from him when he is arrested and crucified. But then the Spirit of discipleship will finally grow fully in them and they will give their own lives in service to the cause of the people of God.
I can only invite you to travel with us on this journey towards Easter and the resurrection. Those who are not yet given to be disciples may yet find some of the strength of discipleship within them. Whatever we are given will be sufficient. For God makes no mistakes. Out of despair He brings hope. Out of defeat he brings victory. Out of repression He brings liberation.
For God has planted a people here to be like Oaks of Righteousness, to transform this nation and give birth to the transformation of a continent, the transformation of “America.” He is with you. He will provide for your defense. Find the disciple within you. Make Disciples of those around you. He will never leave you. Walk with him until you believe – and can see and hear.
Amen? Amen? Amen!
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES FOR THE THIRD WEEK IN THE TIME OF GALILEE
Isaiah 61:1-3 The Year of the Lord’s Favor
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
Jeremiah 1: 4-10 The Call of Jeremiah
The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew[a] you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” 7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Matthew 4:18-22 Jesus Calls the First Disciples
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.