Faith

Refugees

Matthew 25:34-37.
“Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

Those are the words of Jesus.

Isaiah 58:6-9.
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.”

Those are the words of Isaiah.

Refugees. It’s hard to imagine that this is a polarizing topic among Christians.   But it is.  Some of my Facebook friends — who practice Christianity — claim that this ban on refugees is right and within the bounds of Christian theology and life practice.  Elders, leaders, silent pulpits.

The issue for the American Christian (is that even a category, sadly it is?) is that we don’t trust God.  We won’t speak out on behalf of those who are escaping the very terror that we are trying end. The refugees are the people from Mosul and Aleppo and countless other places where the war on terror is being intensely fought.  We are willing to fight over there, but we are not willing to accept a minuscule risk to our safety here to welcome them? The people who are well vetted, and who have suffered so much to get the chance to come here, we abandon them at the last minute because…? Jesus tells us so?  Huh

Hebrews 13:1-4.
“Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.”

We have the opportunity to rescue, help, and bless some of the world’s most oppressed — women, children, families. To be the light of the world.  To show these oppressed the Love of God.  That’s right, to open our hearts and to pour out on these people the love of God which we believe is greater than anything else.  Any nationality.  Any creed.  Any nationalistic, narrowly focused, expression of what’s mine is mine.

All this past week I have read and seen the stories of those who have been turned away at our borders.  I have carried the grief and embarrassment of what our country has done and the vocal silence of Christians, especially conservative evangelicals.  If you, as a Christian persist in telling the most vulnerable to go away, then what are we to make of Jesus’ words?  Of Isaiah’s prophesy?

I was talking with a colleague this week about the craziness in the world.  Our conversation drifted to the refugee situation.  I told her I am a Christian.  We had been very serious in our conversation.  And she simply stopped talking and looked at me.  Silent.  Waiting.

I told her I do not support the US ban on refugees.  It is wrong.  It does not show the love of God.  It does not risk helping the poor and destitute regardless of my circumstances. And I said, if other Christians disagree, well then, on this issue I will say this: You are a hypocrite.

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Faith

Expanse II

I have been spending the weekend on the edge of a salt marsh, a tidal inlet from the ocean. It’s a constantly changing ecosystem with the seawater coming and going every moment of the day. It can be entirely filled so that it looks like a lake, or an infinite number of variations of grasses, shrubs, wildlife, and twisting furrows as the water comes and goes. I’ve seen coyotes, a red-tailed hawk, rabbits, geese, ducks.

On Friday night, I took the dogs out before bed, and the sky was crystal clear without a cloud or a moon. It was simply stars. As I gazed up across the marsh, I thought how amazing the view. I felt a sense of welcome and wonder. I took the dogs in, and they curled up into their spots, and I remembered that I had bought some binoculars. I thought they probably wouldn’t make that much of a difference. But what the heck? I’ll just step out the front door and take a peak.

I could not believe it. Honestly, I had never seen anything like that sky before. Where maybe there were 500 stars, I was now seeing 5,000. When I looked at Venus (my iPhone Planets app said that’s what it was), it was almost too bright to look at. Another bright star turned out to be two very close stars. Another bright star wasn’t a star at all because it looked like a galaxy I’ve seen in so many space pictures.

I had a horizon to horizon view. For 30 minutes I just gazed. Until, with the wind and the cold, I had to go back inside. I was unsettled, in a way. And so I sat in front of the fire that was almost out, stirred the remaining embers, and regenerated some flames and sat to take it in. I realized that the fire was a little star in itself. Burning fuel and giving off light and heat. Of course, it was not a star.

I reflected, if we are just on this very little planet compared to that immense night sky and we are the only ones here in the universe, then that is very scary. We are so tiny, and if our planet ceases to exist the universe will not notice. Whole galaxies collide and are destroyed, and the universe continues on. If nothing is binding all the universe together, giving it meaning and sense of order, then all I have is the little fire, my dogs, my wife, my sons, family, friends, work, and some hobbies. And then I will go away, forever, and the universe will not care or acknowledge anything of my brief time here.

As I was about to go to sleep, I went outside for just a minute more. As I looked up, I felt the comfort of my unaided, familiar view of the night sky. Then a quick sweep with the binoculars. I was reminded of a verse from Job of how God “made the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the chambers of the south.” I closed my eyes, and I let that sink in. Yes, I am a believer, and yes, God did have a reason for making all of this.

And yes, we are not alone. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have immense moments of awe in His presence and His creation. The overwhelming sense at that moment was of His great love for me and His great interest in who I am even in the middle of the immensity of the stars and planets and galaxies around me. The Creator was showing me for the first time His bigger creation. To take it in with humility and to know I am a part of it. To rest in the peace of His beauty and awe.

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