Throughout history those going into battle prepared themselves. They prepared themselves by joining with their families and loved ones. They prepared themselves by coming together with their communities. Most important, they prepared themselves spiritually by taking time out to come closer to God, to purify their hearts. These preparations were necessary to make oneself ready for battle. Yet perhaps God gives us these battles so that we can take stock of our lives, determine what is important, get rid of excess baggage and confusions, reaffirm positive relationships and put negative relationships behind us.
Preparation for battle requires a kind of purification with spiritual fire so that we will be ready for the actual fire of battle.
The executive orders issued by Trump this week make it clear that the administration is gearing up for mass deportation. While he is still saying that he is only going after “the criminals”, he has also clarified that anyone who falls in the path of ICE agents, anyone who entered illegally, is subject to an effort to deport them. He announced that he wants to add 10,000 new agents and open up new detention centers. While he has continued the DACA program “for the time being” there is no assurance that he will continue it indefinitely and step by step protections which we had won are being stripped away.
We are facing an assault on millions of families, most made up of both undocumented, legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens. It is an assault on the Latino family, period, end of story. That is the reality of the battle we are facing. Still we are not without our defenses. Even today we will begin training our “navigators” – those who will help others prepare their defenses. We still have many legal defenses and we are coming up with new ones every day. but the greatest defense we have is in our numbers. Yesterday we began preparing some people for sanctuary. Because we struggled over these last many years our young people can still apply and receive DACA. Because we struggled over these last years we have the majority of people in this country with us – and we have our unity. We know that God will not abandon us because he has planted us here with a purpose. Still the battle is coming! We should be clear. We are not just going to march and demonstrate to influence the national election four years from now. We are organizing to force this administration to stop the deportations and separation of families in the coming months. That is the battle we are preparing for !
As we have been preparing organizationally and legally for this battle, we have used the scriptures which describe Jesus in Galilee to guide us. In Galilee, Jesus was organizing his disciples and his followers. He showed his disciples how to heal and drive out the demons that oppression creates in us. He showed the disciples how to organize and inspire crowds of people and he sent them out to try to work on their own so they could see where their weaknesses were. Throughout all of these things his message was that the Kingdom of God was near to us, that the power of God’s Kingdom could actually live in and between our hearts.
He had told his disciples to avoid arguments and speak to those who welcome them. Soon however, he will begin his march on Jerusalem and his confrontation with oppression and hypocrisy. As he marches towards Jerusalem he will confront the hypocrites and the Roman oppressors but will also show his disciples and followers how to avoid in themselves the attitudes and practices they confront in their oppressors. His concern is still to teach and to strengthen his movement before the coming confrontation.
Before he begins his journey to Jerusalem he takes two disciples and goes to the mountain to make himself ready. And that is what we must do today and in the days that follow this week. We will let Jesus be our guide. We must organize our people and confront those who would destroy us. We cannot do that if we are afraid or if we are preoccupied.
He comes before God in a special way. All of us experience fear in times like this. All of us experience frustrations and jealousies with each other that capture part of our thoughts and feelings. All of us think selfishly about ourselves. Yet Jesus suspends fear and frustration and jealousy. He suspends selfishness. For the moment he puts those concerns aside. This is something human beings can do, something you can do. It is as if you are watching the television and you just turn off the sound. You agree not to worry about what is being said, not to worry about danger, or your health, or your responsibilities or others around you or other little concerns – even if only for a few minutes.
In this state of mind, Jesus stood before the creator and found himself able to speak directly with his ancestors, ancestors from long ago. There was Moses, who had struggled to lead his people out of slavery. There was Elijah, who had felt discouraged and defeated in battle and gone to the mountain to ask God for help. Both of them had had doubts about themselves.
Moses told the Lord that he didn’t believe he had it in himself to move his people. The Lord replied that He would be with Moses and he gave Moses what he needed to wield authority in His name.
Old Elijah was told to stop complaining because the Lord had set aside an army of 7,000 and all he had to do was to go to find that army!
The two disciples saw Jesus talking with these two famous ancestors and were amazed. They were amazed because they saw a certain transformation come over Jesus as he spoke with the ancestors. In our faith we say Jesus was transfigured. Indeed all over the earth today over a billion people are celebrating “Transfiguration Sunday.” It was as if a light came over him from within him and seemed to perfect him.
The disciples saw a glow overwhelm him – as when a glow comes over a pregnant woman preparing for birth. In that case, the pregnant woman knows that she is going to give birth, she is going to do something extraordinary and something extraordinary is going to be done through her. She glows! She is going to experience the birth of life! – the creation of life! She knows that somehow she will endure the pain and will be able to do what seems impossible.
In this moment Jesus is no longer bound by the ordinary passage of time or customary succession of events. He has stepped into God’s time, well beyond his own finite, day follows day, hour follows hour, time. In God’s time the beginning of creation and the end of creation are both included in the moment. In God’s time you can talk to your ancestors, to those who have recently passed, those who have passed a long time ago and even those who are yet to come. You don’t have to keep looking at your watch. You are free and able to focus on what is truly important!
To add to the transfiguration of Jesus, the disciples heard a voice from the heavens saying, “This is my son whom I love!” He was not only in the miracle of God’s time he was in the light of God’s love! The disciples who were still learning the Way of faith which Jesus taught them wanted to worship Moses and Elijah and Jesus because of what they saw. But Jesus cautioned them not to worship but to follow, to walk with Jesus in God’s time and in God’s love in preparation for what was to come.
If you can stand for a moment in the transfiguration of God’s time and God’s love, what will you experience? You will see what is wonderful and precious in your life! You will see your family and the ones you most deeply love, the ones with whom you share the most important things of life. Let yourself be purified in this vision! Clear up disagreements and regrets. Say the things you will want them to remember. Given all that they mean to you, how could you let small frustrations or anger or impatience desecrate those relationships? These are the gifts from God! If you love them you will struggle for them!
As Jesus stood on the mountain that day he was sure of his purpose. He was sure that God had put him here on the earth to save his people. When you stand in the light of God’s love than love overtakes you. It was this love that would carry Jesus through the crucifixion.
The hate we are facing from this new government, the racism we are facing cannot be allowed to destroy or intimidate God’s people. We know in our hearts that we must organize our families and our people to stand up to it. On the mountain, we seek the strength to do what we must do. On the mountain we recognize that it is a privilege to serve our people, to struggle for our people.
Like Moses, we doubt ourselves. Can we do what God asks us to do? Can we speak with authority and love so that the people will stand together? When Jesus talked with Moses on that mountain he was reminded that God gave Moses the power even to divide the waters so that the people might go free! When others doubted Moses, God gave him the courage to confront Pharaoh again and again.
Look to your own ancestors, to those who met the conquest of the Spaniards and persevered. Look to those who crossed the desert to come to the north so their families could survive. God gave them a way and He will give you a way as well.
Like Elijah, fear makes us think we are alone. But like Elijah God is telling us that he has reserved an army of millions to support us during this time. He only requires that we reach out to those who will stand with us. If they see us standing strong then they will stand strong as well. Only a few years ago a few families called for the people to march. In a few months those marches of Latinos grew to be millions in the streets of every city. And only a few weeks ago, after the inauguration of Donald Trump, millions of people of every race and faith marched in resistance – and in support of your human rights! That was God telling you not to be discouraged for he has reserved an army in your behalf!
We began this spiritual year celebrating the Virgin of Guadalupe. Juan Diego found her on a Holy mountain as well. He was fearful. He felt his conquerors were too powerful. But the Dark Virgin gently strengthened his faith so that he had the courage to confront them. Juan Diego and his people had been humiliated yet he became sure on the mountain that God the creator loved him – and that love from such a great power gave him courage.
I asked you to suspend your doubts and fears and jealousies and think about what is most precious in your life, the people you love. That love you have with your family is a reflection of the love that God has for his people – and for the justice they seek on this earth. Today on the mountain with Jesus, as you reflect on the love you have for your family, let yourself experience the love God has forHis family – for his people he has planted here in the north.
The experience of God’s purpose for you and God’s love for you not only gives your comfort and courage, it is your greatest weapon in the battle that is to come. The sounds of hatred and racism that come from those who would separate families cannot stand up to God’s love for His people and prevail. While people are driven to hate out of fear and greed it is love that really moves them. If you act from love you will win support in your battles.
There are no instant victories in life. I am not telling you that we will win every deportation battle although we will fight every one. We may lose a few. Have faith that in demonstrating their hate in separating a family or in deporting a veteran, they weaken their support among the people. Have faith that those who are deported will be returned. You were given Elvira, given her return from deportation, as a sign to give you courage in this ministry. Deportation is an injustice, a violation of human rights but it cannot separate the love that binds together a family – for that love comes from above and it will always prevail.
We recall today the famous words of Dr. Martin Luther King. Speaking shortly before a racist’s bullet struck him down he told a congregation, “I have been to the mountain top and I have seen the future. I may not get there with you but I am sure that we as a people WILL get there.” Dr. King said the “arc of history bends towards justice.” The march towards the universal respect for human rights is irreversible. Yes, you and your children’s children should be free to work and provide for a family, to organize communities based on equal rights and justice, to raise families without fear, based on love and unity – and they will! That is the future you can see if you stand today on the mountain with Jesus. That is the future you will have if you purify your heart and let it be filled with the fire of God’s love for his people.
From the mountain top we can see the struggle of our ancestors that brought us here. From the mountain we can see back to the time after 9/11 when we were alone and hunted. We have come a long way. The government has taken an evil turn but the majority of people now support us, now stand ready to march with us. And from the mountain top we can see the future in which we will find justice in this land – and in which we will bring the Spirit of God’s justice to this land.
Now Jesus invites us to stand with him on the mountain and be made ready to march with him to Jerusalem! Stand with Jesus because Jesus is standing with you! Stand in the light of God’s love for God is going to bring forth a new life from you. Amen! Amen!
The Scriptures for the Eighth Weekin the Season of Galilee
Exodus 32:15-20 Moses went to the Mountain…
Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp. Moses replied: “It is not the sound of victory, it is not the sound of defeat; it is the sound of singing that I hear.” When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.
1 Kings 19:12-18 Elijah: I reserve seven thousand…
After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”
Mark 9:2-10 The Transfiguration
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.