Rev. Kelly Jane Caesar
First Congregational Church of East Hartford
September 23, 2018
Rev gives scripture context:
We will hear the anthem in a couple minutes as a piece of scripture.
Biblical immigration is our theme this fall.
This week looking at reasons for migration in the Bible,
famine is a common theme
Patriarchs fled famine multiple times:
Abram to Egypt (Gen 12:10)
Isaac to Philistine territory (gen 26:1)
Jacob’s sons twice to Egypt for food before finally settling there with Joseph’s help (Gen 41,43, 47)
A famous matriarch of the faith also fled famine. Let’s listen not only to the reasons for her migration, but also for the miracles.
Brenda: Ruth 1:1-6
Rev gives scripture context
Ruth matriarch because she is part of genealogy of Jesus
(Matt. 1: Ruth/Boaz- Obed – Jesse – King David …. Joseph, adopted father of Jesus)
A matriarch in our faith was a courageous foreign migrant fleeing famine.
Jesus himself was a migrant from the day he was born.
Let’s listen not only for the reason for his flight, but also for the miracles.
Rev Scripture Context:
Jesus was not the only one in the Bible to flee persecution:
David from Saul (1 Sam 27)
People from slavery in Egypt
Moses from murder of taskmaster (ex 2:11-14)
Jeremiah after assignation of Babylonian governor (Jer 40-44)
Still others, nearly the whole nation,
were forced from their homes during the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests of Israel.
The books of Daniel and Ester describe Jews in royal courts
measuring how much to assimilate in the land of their conquers.
The debate on how to assimilate is likely familiar to migrants today.
The pain of being forced from one’s home is captured in psalm 137,
written after Babylon destroyed the temple in Jerusalem and exported its people to Babylon.
Let us listen to the ancient song sung in the hearts of migrants for centuries.
Anthem “on the willows”
Have you seen the movie, “127 Hours”?
It is an re-enactment of a true story of a hiker who is out hiking alone in Colorado in 2003.
He falls down a crevasse and his arm becomes stuck between two boulders.
His only way out is to sever his arm.
Stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Many migrants in the ancient world and today face a similar struggle.
Famine, persecution, and war drove many of our ancestors in faith to foreign lands.
Today fellow Christians flee war, violence, and stark poverty.
Some say the NAFTA made the economic situation in Central America worse, as small farmers couldn’t compete with the low prices of American farmers whose crops are heavily subsidized by the US government. Others argue it has evened out. What we do know is that most who flee desire to work.
The decision to flee is rarely easy, especially because the legal means of immigration are extremely limited and take years.
US agricultural relies heavily on immigrant labor, in part because many US citizens are too well educated with high school diplomas to take the low paying jobs. However, the federal government limits the amount of legal immigrants agriculture can take and makes it such a headache and expense to receive legal immigrant workers, that many companies opt for illegal immigrants. The opportunity to put food on the table seeds hope for many south of the US living in poverty with constant violence around them. (Borderangels.org)
Stuck between a rock and a hard place, some choose to risk it all for a chance to live.
Most who cross the southern US border sell all they have to pay “coyotes” to smuggle them across the border. Sadly, the coyotes spin lies about the travel. coyotes will drive migrants over the border and tell them that NYC is just a day’s walk. Instead they are left in the brutally hot (over 100 degrees) desert with miles to go to reach civilization and water.
As a result, since 1999 over 3,000 have died in the desert attempting to escape from a hard place.
Christians across the border have responded to these deaths with simple humanitarian aid.
Organizations like “No More Deaths” “Border Angels” and “Good Samaritans” leave water out in the desert. As some of you know, I spent a summer volunteering with the Good Shepherd UCC church in Arizona where the congregation has an active ministry with migrants. They bring water jugs out into the desert. From time to time they will meet a migrant. Some times they have already died. Often they are lost and confused, exhausted and overwhelmed. While some choose to continue on, many are ill and spent, so they agree to have border patrol called. They are then delivered back over the border, often stripped of their paperwork, dignity, hope, and even as migrants in such a state are susceptible to suicide, even their shoelaces are taken.
(On the willows refrain, with captors line)
How can we sing the Lord’s song?
Where are the miracles?
In the movie, “127 Hours” the stranded hiker gathers the courage to sever his arm after he has visions of his future and reminders of this past. He moves from despair to hope.
That crazy miracle of hope – hope for a future – pushes us to not give up.
Abram flees to Egypt because he hopes in God’s promises.
Isaac flees to Philistine territory because he hopes in God’s promises.
Naomi flees Bethlehem and returns again because she hopes in God’s mercy.
Ruth follows, not because it is easy or rational, but because she hopes.
Jospeh and Mary flee Bethlehem, on the whim of a dream, because they hope God’s promise will be fulfilled in Jesus.
Hispanic migrants today, who overwhelmingly share our Christian faith, flee because they are courageous enough to hope that God has more from them. They dare to hope that their fellow Christians and humans will see them as God does: beloved, born in the image of the Divine.
If a woman facing death threats and poverty has the courage and faith to hope enough to risk everything for a chance to survive in the Promised Land of the United States, then who are we to despair?
May we hope.
Hope for a way out
Hope for a sustainable solution.
May we hope enough to research and learn.
May we hope enough to call our elected officials and vote.
May we hope enough to join the conversation, to ask questions and learn.
May we be a people of hope,
Because the baby that fled Bethlehem did grow up to save the world.
The babe of Bethlehem became a toddler in Egypt who became a teenager in Nazareth who became the adult wandering Galilee who went to the capital and sacrificed everything to turn the world around.
In his death and resurrection not only can we hope in a way out of no way,
we can believe that love and compassion will overcome fear and despair.
The hiker movie ends in the fulfillment of his hope. He later marries and gives motivational speeches.
May our world’s struggle with migration end in the fulfillment of every person’s simple hope for survival and safety. Amen.
Invitation to Offering
Friends often ask me how in the midst of our crazy world I can ever have hope.
Usually I respond that being the pastor in this congregation gives me hope.
There is a steady stream of God sightings that prove to me the goodness in humanity and the power of the holy to make all things work for good.
I have hope when I see people donating toys to the women’s shelter, at just the moment the shelter needed the toys.
I have hope when I see friendships forming across generations and political divides, offering insight and support beyond words.
I have hope when I see people with great privilege and power humble enough to work on using their power for justice, even if it means letting go of that power.
I have hope when I see young people and older people finding their voice and speaking their truth with not only courage, but compassion.
Consider your offering this morning to be an act of hope:
Hope that your contribution is valuable and needed to the building of a more just world for all.
Your financial contribution supports the church structure which provides the space and resources for relationships to form and great charity to happen in our community.
Your presence is vital to the forming of a strong community. So come to coffee hour, wear a name tag, if you’re new fill out a welcome card.
Jesus is ushering in a new world and calls us to be a part.
May we have hope enough to follow.