Word of the Week

Things We Need to Talk about: Immigration

This past Sunday in our summer series of sermons: "Things We Need to Talk About," I took on the issue of immigration from the perspective of the Good Samaritan story as recorded in Luke 10. Several people have asked me about the content of this sermon so here's a bit of a teaser. If you want to hear the whole thing (as you can do any week), go to our website and click on the audio files of the sermons. 

I'd love for even more conversation about this topic to continue here. 

 . . . . And, you too might be thinking now: “Oh, no pastor, you cannot go there with your sermon this morning. We just don’t talk about how we treat the growing Hispanic population in our county. They are taking our social services. They are taking the places of our children and grandchildren in our schools. Some of us think, learn English or go home. We’d rather have different neighbors.” 

Yet, as followers of Jesus, what might he say about our relationship with these folks? Shall we enter into the sound bites of the MSNBC vs. Fox News debates? Or do we have a different role as people of faith? 

Jeffrey Cain, author of Moving Millions argues that immigration “is not a problem to be solved; it is a fact of life. For millennia, humans have been migrating in search of a better life. Kaye often poses this question to those who oppose immigration: ‘If you had to support your family on $3 a day or less, but had the opportunity to cross a border illegally to raise your living standard would you migrate?’”[i]  

Though immigration is a diverse, thorny issue, especially in this town where the first question many ask you is are on the “right” or are you on the “left,” I believe the question of welcoming neighbors is clear in the way of Jesus. Our faith journey after all, as recorded in scripture, has been as a wondering, nomadic people in search of God’s best for us no matter borders of land or providence. Even though our stand on, specific details regarding immigration decisions can change, our basic posture cannot. It should be one of: Welcome. Welcome. Welcome. 

Because, in fact the twist of this story is that Jesus tells is that it was not the person from the established religion, from the “correct” country, or from a position of power whose actions become the model of faith, rather it is the one who was the stranger. 

 It was the Samaritan, “that” neighbor, who Jesus champions as the one whose sight was correct telling the lawyer to “go and do likewise.” The Samaritan was the one who ministered in mercy. It was the Samaritan who had the gifts of kindness, compassion, hospitality and faith to give—even though he was among those who were perceived to be of no use to the rest of society. 

 What about us? First of all, do we know those neighbors? Do we know the names of those who work where we regularly by coffee or dine? Do we want to take seriously our partnership opportunity with Iglesia Mission Christina, inviting them to our worship, our fellowship and especially making opportunities available in our church calendar to know them on their terms not just ours? Even with language barriers, there is much we can learn about the stories of those who are different from us if we will just make ourselves available. 

For, I believe if we begin to ask ourselves these basic questions what we might find is that “those” people aren’t so far away as we might imagine: they shop at our grocery stores, they walk our sidewalks, and in our case, they worship in our building. 

And through this re-orientation to our surroundings, we might just find one of “those” people at our doorsteps bringing us hot papusas, remembering our birthdays, or brightening our day with a smile or a hug: ministering to us instead of the other way around. 

For such people we neatly want to talk about in terms of public policy at our dinner parties, are in fact just people after all like us, desiring the same basic human joys that we are seeking. And such people are best understood if we stop talking about them as “those people” but instead our neighbors, our friends. 

And, if we do this, if we enlarge our view of neighbor, we might just begin to see the majesty of God in shades of all colors, melodic tones, and cultural hues of brilliance . . . . We might just come to see the beauty of the table of the Lord—where the story doesn’t always have to be about us on the main stage, but in fact, we have much to learn.  Do we want to know this our wondrous Creator God? Then, let us welcome those neighbors.  


[i] “Boreline Solutions?” The Christian Century, June 15, 2010.