It is raining this morning and it was raining last night. When I fell into sleep the rain continued in my dream. The rain formed small pools of clean water from heaven. As the rain continued, the pools grew larger and merged together, covering the land, making it clean.
In our ministry, we travel a road through scripture and prayer and action each year to renew our faith. That road, that Way of Faith and Scripture, is a gift that has year in and year out made us new and kept us strong. For those traveling with us for the first time, we welcome you and we will stand with you on this year’s journey.
We are now on the third Sunday of Resurrection Time. During these seven weeks, we follow in scripture each of the appearances of the Resurrected Jesus. Just as these appearances reminded the disciples of the spiritual gifts he had taught them, so each appearance lights up the Way of faith beneath our feet today.
The scripture this Sunday begins with two of the disciples walking down the road to a town called Emaus. Roman soldiers are everywhere. Many have been crucified like Jesus – and many more have been beaten, raped, abused, arrested and “disappeared” from their families. Many are poor while only a few among them are very rich and corrupt.
How many of us are walking on the road to Emaus today? The election of Donald Trump crucified many of our hopes. A storm gathers around us. Trump has flip-flopped on many of his promises, but there is one thing he has been 100% consistent on from day 1 of his campaign to day 100 of his Presidency: demonizing and attacking Latinos.
Almost the first words out of his mouth when he descended the golden escalator to announce his candidacy were to call Mexicans rapists and murderers. Now he is tweeting about Puerto Rico and that health care for the Puerto Rican people is not important with regard to budget negotiations. Last week Trump sent out Jeff Sessions to call Latino immigrants “filth” and “cartel henchmen.” Trump returns to bashing Latinos every time he has a setback on some other issue. It is the way he mobilizes his racist base of support.
Our faith, our history of struggle teaches us that we will prevail in time but we look for confirmation. We have doubts. In truth, the greatest danger we face is that those doubts eat away at our relationships, at our commitment to live the Way that Jesus showed us even as we resist. In this we are like the two disciples on the road to Emaus.
For the two disciples the terrible crucifixion of their leader, their hope, their inspiration has been taken from them. Living in fear and despair they have now heard the talk that Mary and other women have seen the empty tomb and Mary Magdalene says she had seen him resurrected, as he promised, and has a message for them.
The two are joined on the road by a stranger, a traveler. They talk with him about problems and dangers and the rumors that are swirling around them – and they are amazed by his wisdom and his opening the scriptures to them. They ask him to stay for dinner. Then suddenly, while they are listening to him talk at dinner, he raises up some bread, give thanks and breaks it. They are reminded of the last supper when Jesus celebrated the first Holy Communion with them. They SEE Jesus there, resurrected, alive – and then he disappears. They run to tell the other disciples what they have seen.
For us, as for the disciples, this appearance on this Sunday gives us again the gift of communion, the gift we receive every Sunday here in this church. We reaffirm our commitment today as a sanctuary church, the center of a sanctuary ministry that is now rising up in five other locations – and which has given rise to hundreds of sanctuary churches across the nation and now to a hotly contested movement of sanctuary cities. Today we also reaccept the gift of communion and we recognize that that sacrament, first given at the last supper with Jesus and the disciples, is the spiritual foundation of sanctuary.
When we initiated the sanctuary movement we were blessed with the presence of angels. Its power to define a national movement came not only from its statement of resistance but from its spiritual reality. It not only kept Elvira safe, it made a whole community strong. It was not only a gathering in a church, it was a gathering on Holy Ground.
At the last supper Jesus announced to the disciples who were gathered with him that one of them would betray him. He told Peter that Peter would deny him three times. He knew that they were weak and so he gave them something to make them strong for the challenges they would face after his crucifixion. He gave them the sacrament of the bread and the wine so that they could live in his faith and draw strength from it. He gave them a way to be joined together with him after his resurrection.
When we take communion we do it together – but each one of us individually takes the bread and the cup. Each one of us takes in the faith and the sacrifice and the love of Jesus so that we can all be strengthened in our unity and our purpose as a people of God. We are recommitted to the resistance to injustice and hypocrisy that Jesus showed and we are joined in the love and forgiveness that he showed in gathering the disciples as a community of faith.
When we began sanctuary we tried to explain to many that this was not the old sanctuary of hiding someone. Yes, sanctuary offered a person some protection from arrest – but it was an act of public civil disobedience – and an act of faith. In the sanctuary to which we were called, a mother remained with her son and with her community of faith in public defiance of an unjust law. Sanctuary was an act of resistance, of protest, but it was way to resist by living in faith as a community. It was an act of communion.
We have been called to speak to many churches that are considering sanctuary. They want to talk about the liabilities they might face, the punishment under the law. They are evaluating the cost of resistance. When cities began to declare themselves sanctuaries, they went through the same discussions. When Trump signed an executive order declaring that the federal government would deny funds to sanctuary cities, they fought back in federal court. A federal judge in San Francisco ruled against the President this week and the Mayor of Chicago celebrated that ruling and committed to continue Chicago as a sanctuary city.
We support churches, and schools and cities becoming sanctuaries, refusing to cooperate with ICE, refusing to do the work of immigration agents, refusing to turn people over to the migra. Trump’s response that these cities are “protecting criminals”, that the blood of their innocent victims is on the hands of these sanctuary cities, is just part of his racist effort to paint the undocumented as criminals. The undocumented have the right to a fair trial as much as anyone – a right Trump would take away by deporting them before they could get such a trial. Moreover, the cooperation Trump wants from local police is for them to seek out those without papers and turn them over to ICE for deportation and separation from their families even if they have committed no crime!
Yet the sanctuary we are talking about is not simply an act of resistance – it is also an act of love and faith. It is the act of love of a mother or father for their children. It is an act of faith by a community that chooses to live as Jesus taught.
It is as we said, an act of a community of faith that fears God more than they fear Homeland Security!
Trump’s attorney general has said he will no longer pursue federal civil rights violations against police departments that routinely brutalize and murder people of color. If Chicago is to truly be a sanctuary city it must not only resist Trump’s support of police no matter what they do, Chicago must also stop its police from doing what they do. Chicago must practice justice.
Trump and the Republicans are working to get rid of ObamaCare, denying health care to millions of people who now receive it. Yesterday, we participated in a conference and a protest against these efforts to deny people health care. Pastora Emma said that health care is a human right and she and others explained how the greatest killer is not cancer, or heart disease, or diabetes or even gun violence. The greatest killer is inequality. Because of inequality in health care, our community is denied years of life. Because of inequality there is a twenty year death gap that affects our community.
We didn’t just call for resistance to Trump’s health care policies, we called for a “Health Care Sanctuary” in Chicago. In such a sanctuary, no matter what the federal government does, we join together as a community to provide health care equality with what we have. Hospitals and clinics cannot hide behind their opposition to President Trump and still turn away the sick to balance their budgets. We called on young people – from high school students to medical students – to volunteer their time to bring prevention to the community and to fight for every person’s access to health care. We were able to offer our youth health service corps as an example of what we could do together.
You see, a sanctuary is not just a political resistance. In sanctuary we call on communion with Christ to give us the faith to live, to love and to sacrifice for each other as the people of God. In fact, it is living sanctuary, living communion, that gives this act of resistance its power. Sanctuary is not part of a political debate – it is part of the Kingdom of God!
In the Jesus we know from scripture, in the resurrected Jesus we experience in communion, there is such a beautiful consistency, such a wonderful freedom from contradictions that arise from half way commitments. In sanctuary, in the sanctuary of communion, we find that freedom.
Just as there are contradictions in the sanctuary cities – cities that refuse to cooperate with ICE in the criminalization of the undocumented but whose courts and police criminalize people of color every day; just as there are contradictions in health care institutions that protest the heartless, murderous policies of the Trump administration and yet do not sacrifice to provide health care themselves; there are also contradictions in churches that declare themselves sanctuary churches.
We spoke last week with churches who were considering declaring themselves sanctuaries and wanted to join in the resistance to the deportations. We told them that we could show them how to fill out DACA applications and teach people their rights, to become defenders and mobilizers. We also told them they had to love the people they were defending. The love of Christ doesn’t show itself in “welcoming” the undocumented and then telling them not to disrupt the way the church normally functions. The love of Christ requires both individual churches and their denominations to give those they defend a place to develop their own ministry, to become equal stewards of God’s churches – and to be willing to sacrifice the normal ways they have of running their churches and protecting their properties.
When we began our ministry we were called to heal the divisions between Catholics and Protestants, Evangelicals and Pentecostals in the Latino community. Church authorities created these divisions which sometimes even divided families. If we were to work for the unity of the people of God, unity of the faith, then we could not let religion divide us. We chose the Methodists because they supported retaining some of the Catholic traditions while being open to the direct relationship to God found in the evangelical churches. We both prayed like Pentecostals and prayed the rosary! We opened our hearts to the prisoner or the addict that found strength in “accepting Jesus Christ” and we found unity in the families who gathered to baptize a new born child. We became a reconciling congregation because we learned to see Jesus in each other….
We celebrate an open communion, open to all: because the communion that Jesus began with the Lord’s supper, that he revealed to the disciples walking on the road to Emaus, is a spiritual connection that gives birth to a people of God, not a church enslaved to its property and its bishops!
In Christ’s Communion, we are called to establish sanctuaries and to sweep them clean of contradictions and half way commitments. Those sanctuaries are like tables at which those walking on the road to Emaus can sit down together, where a traveler is transformed into the Resurrected Jesus right before their eyes. In communion we look into the eyes of our children and know that they are not filth, they are flowers from heaven. Those sanctuaries are the place where the seed that is Jesus becomes the corn that is the people of God. They have the power ofliving the Way of God.
Know this: these true sanctuaries, these pockets of resistance and transformation, will not be denied by the arrogance and hypocrisy of man – for they represent God’s intervention in this world. They will join Mexicans and Puerto Ricans together tomorrow in the defense of Puerto Rico! They will join Mexicans together tomorrow in the struggle for justice on both sides of the border! We will march together. We will struggle together. For we are joined in communion with heaven itself.
When we are thirsty for justice, God sends the rain, at first making small pools of justice and love. If we persevere we will see God sending the rain, connecting them, one to the other, connecting the sanctuaries, until justice rolls down like a mighty stream across the land.
So give us the faith to live as Jesus lived, to live in communion with Christ and with each other in both faith and resistance!
The Holy Scriptures for the Third Sunday in the Resurrection
Mark 14: 16-26 The Last Supper
16 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. 17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” 19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?” 20 “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” 22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” 23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 “This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” 26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Luke 24:13-35 On the Road to Emmaus (1)
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a]from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
Luke 24:25-35 On the Road to Emmaus (2)
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. 28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.