FAITH IN ACTION
Second Sunday in the Time of the Kingdom
Yesterday we gathered here in this church with people from all over the city to hear a report on the coming of mass deportations in this country – and to prepare our resistance.
As we look for guidance to the Holy Scriptures let us reflect on where we are in the gospel story and our place in that repeating story of faith and resistance. The disciples had gathered in Jerusalem after the crucifixion – and the resurrect – and formed the first community of faith and resistance among the people there. Then came repression and violence and economic troules and many of the people went to different places in the roman empire. In those places, they formed new communities of faith and resistance as they had learned from the disciples.
James, the brother of the Lord, wrote to them, recognizing that they were facing hard times and a hostile government where they settled. James told them they should persevere in the face of adversity, that perseverance would perfect them, establish the Kingdom of God among them, and protect them. Now he writes his second letter.
James tell them that those who look into the perfect law – and do what it says – will be blessed by God. They are reminded that Jesus told them that what they bound on earth would be bound in heaven. But James told them that they must not only observe the teachings of Jesus they must do what those teachings said they should do. He said those that do not act according to the teachings are like a man that looks into a mirror. He sees himself in the perfect law but when he turns away he cannot remember what he looks like. He cannot recall who he is. He cannot recall that God has called him to be one of his people and a witness to his love and justice on the earth.
James calls the teachings of Jesus “the perfect law that gives freedom.” Such a law says that what God has joined together no man should separate. The unity and faithfulness of the family gives freedom to be as God calls us to be and to realize the blessing of his love and justice. The ui9ty and faithfulness of young persons to their people gives the freedom to realize the blessing of God’s love and justice.
That is what James tells the new communities of faith in foreign lands, in Roman itself. And yet in those places they run up against unjust laws that deny them that freedom, laws that would separate families, laws that would disperse young people from the land where God has planted them to make his Kingdom known.
The communities must have remembered now also the confrontation of the disciples with the Temple authorities in Jerusalem. The disciples had gone among the people telling the truth: that the priests and the Romans had conspired t murder Jesus, an absolutely innocent man. While they were telling this truth to the people they healed a crippled man, a beggar, to show the people the power of the Kingdom of God. The authorities had called them in and told them to stop saying what they were sayins. But Peter and John stuck to their guns: “Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
So now in the face of unjust laws that tried to keep them from being faithful to the law of God, they were to continue to be faithful, to stand up against the unjust law and Peter and John had done, as Jesus had done. That is what James is calling on the new communities to do – and calling on us to do: to act, to put our words into practice.
Yesterday, we heard Congressman Gutierrez explain what the Trump administration plans to do in September. Trump had promised during his campaign to revoke DACA – making undocumented and vulnerable to deportation the over 800,000 young people who have applied, registered and are living, working and going to school legally. Under pressure from Republicans, threatening a lawsuit in Texas, the Trump administration seems ready t take this wicked action. In the same way, the head of Homeland Security told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that they would end TPS for hundreds of thousands of hard working people who came here because of natural disasters and wars in Central America and the Caribbean. While ICE has said it was targeting those with criminal convictions for deportation we know that they have already arrested and deported more people with0ut criminal convictions. The head of Homeland Security made it clear that beginning in September there are no protections for mothers and fathers with U.S. citizen children. ICE is adding on new officers to pursue what we can only say is a campaign of mass deportation, a campaign to “Make America White Again.”
We made a beginning yesterday. Hundreds of people made a commitment to organize their churches, their organizations, their schools and their churches to mobilize against these evil deportations. We will begin tomorrow with Moral Monday in front of ICE on Congress – and we will keep on organizing so that our communities – with our many allies – we will explode across this country in September.
It is a time of struggle. We cannot avoid it. We must confront it head on.
What does the scripture advise us to do? Like the disciples, we are called to continue to testify to the truth so that we will not forget and lose sight of who we are. We must proclaim the injustice against the innocent. With James, we are committed to act in defense of our families, of our next generation and of our people.
Those who are now or will soon be targets of deportation in our own community are so very close to our hearts. We will continue to exhaust every means we have to defend them: legal, political and through direct action. Some of these fights are very difficult. We need to be strong and we need to give strength to those who are living under immediate threat. We will support them no matter what decisions they make, no matter what may come, because we are bound to them in love. Yet we will not let anything this government does discourage us. Nothing can separate us in our hearts. Nothing can shake our unity and our sharing of each other’s burdens. If we suffer temporary setbacks we will stay firm in our belief that God will make straight what has been bent by wickedness.
We ask you again today to commit to our different ministries which put our faith into action: the ministries of Familia Latina Unida, of “The Wave of Five Million”, of the Youth Health Service Corps, our veterans ministry, our street warriors ministry and the other ministries. Together these ministries make us a community of faith and resistance. Just as God blessed us when we declared the first sanctuary in the nation, so God will bless our community of resistance to be “like a lamp” for other communities of faith, showing them a way to put faith into action.
The power of our ministry is based in transformation. The commitment to live in the perfect law of Freedom, and to stand in resistance to unjust laws, begins with each individual. The commitment of each individual in accepting the Way of Jesus in their lives transforms the family, the groups of young people, the communities of faith and the whole people of Latinos now planted in this nation in the north.
If you feel the call today, be patient with those around you. Your own commitment to transformation will be like a seed that transforms those around you. We are preparing now for September. We will prepare ourselves organizationally. We will prepare ourselves legally and politically. Yet today we make a commitment to prepare ourselves spiritually – in our prayer life, in our commitment to correct our faults, in taking care with our relationships to build each other up, in reaching out to bring others into our community of faith.
You are the disciples of today. If you are strong in the Lord, if you are strong with each other, there is nothing they can do to you that can separate you from each other, from those you love – and from the Kingdom of God. They may force some of us to leave the country – for a while. They may force some of us to go into hiding. They may even put some of us in prison – but they cannot make us forget who we are and they cannot break the bond of love that binds us together. As we are when we stand before God and look into the perfect law of freedom, so we are everyday of our lives.
We do not fear Homeland Security because we fear God. We are not afraid of the crucifixion because we have seen the resurrection. We are the people of God, God is with us and no evil or wickedness can defeat us!
THE HOLY SCRI[TURES FOR THE SECOND WEEK IN THE TIME OF THE KINGDOM
Mark 4:21-25 A Lamp on a Stand
He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.” “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”
Acts 4: 13-20 The Disciples Before the Sanhedrin
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrinand then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” 18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
James 1: 19-25 Listening and Doing
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.