Luke 9: 47-62, Galatians 5: 13-25
June 30, 2019
With Faces Set Towards Jerusalem
Rev. Susan Allison-Hatch
“But Jesus …took a little child and put her by his side, and said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest’”(Luke 9: 47-48).
Perhaps you saw the picture of the young Salvador girl swaddled in her father’s t-shirt, lying with her father face down in the reeds of the Rio Grande. Perhaps you heard their story—a two-week trip from El Salvador; ending up at the International Bridge across from Brownsville, Texas; turned away because the asylum office was closed; making the choice to swim for freedom; being washed away before the very eyes of her mother/his wife.
Maybe you heard the reports late last week about children held in detention camps—government officials that look the other way when children ask for food, when mothers beg for diapers for their children, when young girls are told to watch and care for small children; the small-minded chintzinesss that claims that toothbrushes and soap are not essential to the health of the children and their families held in detention.
You might have seen pictures of children lying on green mats, covered with silver mylar blankets. Maybe you heard tales of bright lights shining all night and frigid air blowing down on the children.
Maybe you saw the account in Huffiington Post. The story of a young mother and her baby sleeping on rocks because there were no mats in the detention area where they were being held.
Have we forgotten who we are? Have we forgotten that we are people created by Love and in love and for love.
Sometimes I think we have.
And then I hear another kind of story—the story of boys kicking around a soccer ball on the grass behind the Bosque Center; the story of a group of kids clustered together on a sofa in the basement of First Pres—all giggling and pointing and drawing pictures as they play Pictionary (or maybe a loose version of it) in a language they do not speak with an English speaking volunteer; the story of a St. Michael’s volunteer on the floor with a toddler weighed down with sadness and fear and then lifted up from all of that by a singing game most all of us have played—the itsy bitsy spider.
Think of it—people made for love connecting through sport, through laughter, through songs little children sing.
There are other stories too—stories of young girls—children themselves really—taking care of children in need; stories of people from distant parts of our country traveling to the borderlands to bring water to the thirsty; stories of border patrol fighting the very system that employs them.
In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul writes, “Everything we know about God’s word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself” (Eugene H. Peterson, The Message, 469).
You and I, we’re part of that work. You and I, we, too, do the work of love.
You and I, we, too, are people doing the work of tending the sick, feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, clothing the naked, and welcoming the stranger.
Important work. And surely part of the way of love. But is that always enough?
Remember what Jesus said when he launched his public ministry.
He launched it with words from the prophet Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
Because he has anointed me
To bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To let the oppressed go free,
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
And then he said: Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
Sure enough, Jesus of Nazareth walked the walk. He healed the sick; he gave sight to the blind; he even raised the dead.
But his work was not yet done; his walk was hardly over. Why do you suppose that was? Surely folks needed to be healed; surely the poor needed to hear good news; surely the blind needed to see, the deaf needed to hear, and the lame needed to walk.
But Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem.
Why not just continue all that healing, all that helping, all that freeing work?
He was doing a good job. People were being healed. People were being helped. People were being loved.
Sometimes that isn’t enough.
Sometimes you have to wrestle with the underlying issues.
Sometimes you have to confront the power brokers, the power wielders.
So Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem.
Sometimes we must do that too.
It’s not easy.
Ask Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Oscar Romero or the person sitting next to you in the pew.
And yet—we were made by love.
We were made in love.
We were made for love.
And we don’t do this on our own.
The one we follow walks with us to the Jerusalems of our day; joins at the table; promises to be with us until the end of the age.
That’s really all we need.