Worship this morning at the First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone focused on responding to gun violence. Planned and led by our confirmation class and youth group, the service invited us to connect with hope’s daughers: anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are. (Augustine)
Tag Archives: courage
No matter who you are:
It is not OK to mock a person who has reported a sexual assault.
It is reprehensible to mock a person who has reported a sexual assault.
It is sin to mock a person who has reported a sexual assault.
No matter who you are or who the speaker is:
It is not OK to laugh and cheer when someone mocks a person who has reported a sexual assault.
It is reprehensible to laugh and cheer when someone mocks a person who has reported a sexual assault.
It is sin to laugh and cheer when someone mocks a person who has reported a sexual assault.
No matter who!
2 October 2018
Manhattan, New York
If remembered, relived violation
battered and bruised you this day;
and barely restrained belligerence
pierced your heart,
assailed your soul,
distressed your mind,
sapped your strength;
as day ends,
you are stronger than you imagine,
you are believed,
you are beloved.
Manhattan, New York
A Cup of Water
30 September 2018
First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone
The Rev. W. Mark Koenig
On the night of December 13, 1862, the Confederate army held the high ground outside of Fredericksburg, Virginia. They had dug in behind a stone wall on Marye’s Heights that rose about 50 feet above an empty plain that stretched some 600 yards from the town itself.
That day, fifteen different Federal units had attacked the Heights – moving across the plain in futile rush after futile rush. The closest the Federal troops came to the wall was 25 yards in some locations, 40 yards in others.
In the darkness, ambulances removed the wounded soldiers. But they could not reach the men who had advanced the farthest against the storm of lead that poured upon them from behind the wall.
As the dawn broke on December 14, wounded, dying men still lay where they had fallen. They called for loved ones. They cried out for a merciful death to ease their pain. They begged for water.
After what must have seemed an eternity, an amazing thing happened. A Confederate soldier crossed the wall and went to the wounded, dying men to offer water from a canteen. When they realized what he was doing, the Federals held their fire. The man, probably Sergeant Richard Kirkland from South Carolina, is known as the “Angel of Marye’s Heights” because of his efforts to ease the suffering of those from the other side.[i] Sergeant Kirkland was killed in action before the war ended; that is one of the reasons the identity of the Angel is uncertain.
Jesus taught that in the least of the human family, in the most oppressed, the most vulnerable, we meet him.[ii] A soldier lying wounded under the guns of those who are called the enemy seems to be vulnerable, seems to be the least. What the “Angel of Marye’s Heights” did was certainly done to Jesus.
“I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.”
I may never fully appreciate the power of Jesus’s words. I have been thirsty from time to time. There have been days when the water has been shut off for a few hours. I can remember once or twice when we had to boil water. But for 99% of my life, I have been able to turn on a spigot and receive safe, clean water.
People who live in Flint, Michigan. People who live on the Navajo Nation. People who live in other places in our country and around the world where there is no water, or the water is filled with lead or some mineral runoff or other poison know too well how important water is.
The people who heard Jesus understood. The land where Jesus lived is not a desert in the sense of miles and miles of sand dunes. But it is an arid land. It is a place where water is scarce and water is precious. The people who lived in Judea and Samaria almost 2,000 years ago knew well what the indigenous peoples who gathered at Standing Rock to protect the Missouri River remind the world: “Mni Wiconi – water is life.” Little reason that Jesus praised giving a cup of water to drink as a sacred act.
Our country passed through an emotional wringer this past week. The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the Supreme Court has been contentious and controversial from the moment it was made. The drama and the trauma exploded exponentially when women came forward with allegations of sexual assault by the nominee.
After much wrangling, the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed to hear one of those women, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, testify. On Thursday, Dr. Blasey Ford told her story to the committee and responded to questions. The nominee did the same. It was a grueling day for those in Washington and for those across the country who relieved painful violations as the questioning proceeded and the news media dissected every statement.
The Committee reconvened on Friday to consider what to say to the full Senate. After several hours of statements and debate the Senators voted, along straight party lines, to send the nomination forward with a recommendation for approval. Although, one Senator voted yes only with the understanding that there be an FBI investigation, within a week, of Dr. Blasey Ford’s allegations. Such an investigation appears to be moving forward.
The process was emotional. Painful. Wrenching. Disconcerting. Anger, deep anger, bubbled near the surface and sometimes spewed forth like unrestrained lava bursting from a volcano. Two exceptions, two individuals who showed no little or anger, were Dr. Blasey Ford and attorney Rachel Mitchell who asked questions for the Republicans for a portion of the hearing. Both women.
Senators behaved badly. Barely restraining their words. Attacking each other. Raising their voices. Resorting to exaggeration and hyperbole. Demeaning each other. Attributing base motives to their colleagues with no evidence.
Twitter and social media exploded with fury at all the parties involved. In the days before the hearing, we learned that Dr. Blasey Ford had received death threats. During the hearing, we learned that Judge Kavanaugh had received death threats. After the hearing, we learned that Senator Flake who helped broker the compromise to have an FBI investigation, has received death threats.
This was far from the Senate’s finest moment. This was far from the finest moment for the United States.
The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing takes place at a time when we have heard a great deal about sexual assault, sexual violence, and sexual abuse. Bill Cosby was recently sentenced to prison following his conviction on charges of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home 14 years ago. As many as 60 other women have made similar charges.[iii]
Women, and men, have charged other individuals with inappropriate sexual contact of various sorts. Some have lost jobs. Some appear to go on with life as though nothing had happened. A few, a very few, have admitted their actions and resigned from their jobs or stepped out of the limelight.
Sexual assault is primarily directed against women and girls, but it happens to men and boys as well. Most perpetrators of sexual assault are men, but there are a few instances of women perpetrating such assaults against men or other women.
But abuse is not limited to the Roman Catholic Church. It has happened in our own Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Children have been abused on the mission field where Presbyterians served.[vi] Abuse has also occurred by Presbyterian youth leaders and pastors in this country.[vii]
A 2016 study revealed that 84 percent of Presbyterian female clergy have experienced discrimination, prejudice or harassment based upon their gender.[viii] While discrimination, prejudice, and harassment do not necessarily rise to the level of assault, they may. And they create an atmosphere in which assault may occur. Former Co-Moderator, the Rev. Denise Anderson writes, “most heinous behaviors have their beginnings elsewhere. They are undergirded by our commonly accepted practices and the things we never interrogate. When we don’t take care to pay women with equity, it doesn’t happen. When we aren’t intentional about examining our biases and respecting women’s leadership, it doesn’t happen. And if we can’t even trust women to make decisions about something as simple as their hair, how will we ever believe them when they come forward with their stories of abuse?”[ix]
The multiple allegations spurred the #MeToo movement in which women, transgender people, and men, told their stories and added the hashtag #MeToo. For people unwilling to share their story, who found it too painful to tell their story, who felt unsafe if they were to tell their story, who could not bring themselves to tell one more time a story that had been consistently disbelieved, denied and dismissed, the simple use of the #metoo hashtag served to affirm their experience.
#ChurchToo became used to refer to assault or abuse in the church. One of my seminary professors writes “I can’t even remember the names of all the men on my #ChurchToo list.”[x]What she remembers is the power and the privilege they held. In the end, sexual assault is not about sex. It is about power and control; privilege and violence.
No matter the gender or age of the person who commits the assault; no matter the gender or age of the person who is assaulted; all such actions are sin. The state defines different actions as different types of crime. To those who follow Jesus, all such actions violate the image of God in which each person is made and so are sin.
There’s a lot to process in what I have already said. I have identified some important dynamics and pointed in some necessary directions. I am happy to have further conversations with folks about the issues and concerns I have raised.
This morning, I want to say two more things.
First, we have witnessed amazing courage this week. Bruce Springsteen sings about “courage you can understand.”[xi] As I watched Dr. Blasey Ford testify, I saw courage I cannot understand. I stood in awe of her grace and strength as she presented her story and responded to questions in a hostile setting under enormous pressure and the glare of the world media. Her courage proved contagious and people found their voices and told their stories because of her.
But know this. If someone has sexually abused or sexually assaulted you and you are a human being, you are courageous. You are courageous for working through and living with that trauma every single day. You are courageous if you find your voice and lift it protest and a call for justice. And you are courageous even if you never speak a word aloud. You are courageous. You are not alone. You are stronger than you imagine. And you are beloved by God. Do not ever forget that.[xii]
Second, I believe that amid the stress and trauma of the days before the hearing and the stress and the trauma of the hearing and the vote and the stress and trauma of waiting for what comes next, I believe there were moments of kindness, glimpses of grace, tender mercies, acts of love. To use the image of Jesus in our gospel lesson, cups of water were shared.
We learned that 10-year-old Liza Kavanagh prayed for Dr. Blasey Ford. A cup of water.
Maria Gallagher from Westchester and Ana Maria Archila, who is a native of Queens confronted Arizona Senator Jeff Flake at an elevator inside the U.S. Capitol.[xiii] As they spoke, Mr. Flake nodded and looked down, his eyes darting between the women, the floor, and the elevator walls. “I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me,” Ms. Gallagher said. “I didn’t tell anyone, and you’re telling all women that they don’t matter.” Fighting back tears, she demanded the senator’s attention. “Don’t look away from me,” she said. “Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me.” This marked one of the first times either woman had publicly shared their accounts of sexual assault. Ms. Archila said she was moved to tell her story after seeing Dr. Blasey’s testimony.[xiv] Sometimes cups of water are delivered with tough love.
Senator Flake took his stand for an FBI investigation after conversation with colleagues, Republican and Democrat alike. While reports indicate he talked to several Senators, it seems likely that his conversation with Senator Chris Coons proved pivotal. Senators Flake and Coons rarely vote together but they have become friends. For a moment that friendship became a cup of water as friendships often do.
Women and men, who had profoundly painful memories rekindled, and grievous wounds reopened, found comfort in Facebook posts by strangers and in the presence of friends. Cups of water.
Friends I have known for years thanked me for my simple words of kindness and support posted on Facebook. They shared parts of their story with me that I did not know and for which I weep. They reminded me that courage is contagious. And sometimes we do not know when we pass along a cup of water.
“I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.”
In the week ahead, I give you two homework assignments.
Look around you for people who are sharing cups of water.
Look around you for ways you can share cups of water in the name of Christ.
Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Fred Rogers, or Mister Rogers as he is better known, said that “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”[xv]
I believe that in our passage for today, Jesus says something similar with the image of sharing a cup of water.
When scary things happen, when life become unsettling and threatening, look for the people who are acting with kindness, who are showing love, who are sharing cups of water.
When scary things happen, when life become unsettling and threatening, be the people who act with kindness, who love, who share cups of water in the name of Jesus.
May it be so. Amen.
[ii] Matthew 25:31-46
[iv] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/12/world/europe/german-church-sex-abuse-children.html. A study in Germany reports that more than 3,600 children, most age 13 or younger, were sexually abused by Catholic clergy members over the past seven decades by at least 1,670 church workers.
[v] https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/19/us/catholics-react-pennsylania-sex-abuse/index.html. In August, a study notes that over the past 70 years in six Pennsylvania dioceses, 300 Catholic priests abused more than 1,000 children.
[xi] “Nothing Man,” https://songmeanings.com/songs/view/3458764513820554674/.
[xii] This paragraph grew out of a Facebook exchange with Hannah Truxell.
It was the longest siege of a capital city in modern history, and produced the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II.
– Sylvia Poggioli
And everyday he made me wonder
Where did he ever find
The music midst the madness
The courage to be kind
The long forgotten beauty
We thought was blown away
– John McCutcheon
In the Streets of Sarajevo
April 5, 1992 saw the first casualties in what became a 1,425 day siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War.
More than 10,000 residents died because of shelling, bombing, the blockade, sniper fire, and other aspects of the siege.
In the midst of the siege, “the madness” to use John McCutcheon’s word, Vedran Smailović, of the Sarajevo Philarmonic Orchestra, played his cello in publuc. He played in ruined buildings, often performing Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor. He played at funerals during the siege, even though snipers often targeted by snipers.
After mortar fire killed 22 people as the stood in a bread line, Smailović played for 22 straight days in their honor. This part of Smailović’s story has made its way into writings and song. In an article in The Australian, Smailović expands on his experience:
I didn’t play for 22 days, I played all my life in Sarajevo and for the two years of the siege each and every day. They keep saying I played at four in the afternoon, but the explosion was at 10 in the morning and I am not stupid, I wasn’t looking to get shot by snipers so I varied my routine. I never stopped playing music throughout the siege.
Twenty-two days, two years, all his life. The time frame is unimportant. What matters is that Smailović found music and courage and grace and love to make a witness in the face of war and horror.
I give thanks for the Cellist of Sarajevo, and I look for others who, to paraphrase McCutcheon, “do not stand aside … refuse to be defeated … and rage against the tide.”
See you along the Trail.
P.S. After leaving Sarajevo, Vedran Smailović collaborated with Irish singer-songwriter and peace activist Tommy Sands to create an album Sarajevo/Belfast.
P.P.S. I use the image of the CD cover because it is a photo I took of a copy of the CD I own.
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. has apparently urged students, staff and faculty at his Christian school to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon on campus. The purpose seems to be protection in the event of an attack.
“Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here,” Falwell reportedly said.
This from a man who purports to follow Jesus who told Peter to put away his sword.
But Falwell further appears to have added an Islamphobic remark.
“I’ve always thought if more good people had concealed carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” Falwell said.
Donald Trump issued a call to bar Muslims from entering the United States.
“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” a campaign press release reportedly said.
This from a man who claims to follow Jesus who continually crossed lines of prejudice and discrimination.
To Falwell and to Trump, I say “No! You do not speak for me.”
I reject these messages of hate.
I reject these messages of hate because of what I understand it to mean to be a citizen of the United States of America. We are the home of the brave and courage comes from inside ourselves and among ourselves not from being armed to the teeth and shooting first. The message of Lady Liberty is a message of welcome not a message of exclusion.
I reject these messages of hate because they are incompatible with my faith in Jesus.
Jesus calls us to include not to divide; to love not to fear; to respond to violence with creative nonviolence. Jesus invites us to live into hope; to make ourselves vulnerable; to build and nurture community.
The world is a scary place. I know that.
However, responding with weapons and violence and judgement and exclusion leads only to more fear, destruction, and death.
The way to life, and it takes hard, hard work, is to recognize we are all God’s children, created with an amazing diversity, to honor God’s image in one another, and to love one another. It will involve challenges and risks and pain and sorrow. But it will also involve grace amazing and joy abounding and blessings abundant.
So I reject these, and all, messages of hate. And I choose the way of life. I will protest hate and I will love as well as I am able.
See you along the Trail.
A sermon preached at Rutgers Presbyterian Church on 22 November 2015. I rarely post sermons, however this one received enough positive feedback that I make an exception. Note that this is the manuscript that went into the pulpit; the sermon that came out no doubt differed in several ways.
The Refugee Jesus
Rutgers Presbyterian Church
November 22, 1015
Christ the King Sunday
Fear.We have to talk about fear this day if we wish to talk about refugees.
Fear always creeps into conversations about refugees and immigrants—a fear of the other—of people from whom we differ.
But this day, we gather after
a bombing in Baghdad
a bombing in Beirut
an attack with guns and bombs on Paris
a bombing in Yola, Nigeria
a bombing in Kano, Nigeria
an attack on a hotel in Bamako, Mali
yet more bombings in Baghdad.
And fear has entered the conversation.
Fear of Daesh and other terrorist groups.
Fear of Muslims even though Muslims have been the targets and victims of many of the attacks.
Fear of refugees, particularly refugees from Syria and Iraq.
Political leaders and candidates and pundits have pandered to the fear and fed the fear.
Governors have said their states will not accept refugees from Syria. The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to make the vetting process for refugees from Syria and Iraq more difficult, it not impossible. Some leaders have essentially said “No Muslims need apply” or “Christians only.” Both phrases resonate with nativist and racist language from our past.
In at least one instance, the internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II has been cited as a model for refusing Syrian refugees rather than the evil act of racism that is was.
And one candidate for President called for a mandatory registry of Muslims in the United States, a call that evokes the horror of the Holocaust. The New York Times reports he may be pulling back from that position somewhat.[i]
We cannot talk about refugees on this day without talking about fear.
Some pastors may preach that we should be afraid. We should hunker and hide in fear. And we should allow fear to guide us in our behavior and relationships with refugees. I will not do that.
Surrendering to fear in relation to our brothers and sisters who flee for their lives flies in the face of everything I believe as a follower of Jesus. It goes against everything I believe as a citizen of this country and a resident of our great city where in the harbor stands a statue with a poem:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”[ii]
And it goes against the policy statements and congregational actions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Presbyterians have supported refugee resettlement since the refugee crisis created by World War II. The 160th General Assembly (1948) of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America stated, “The United States should pass legislation to bring in at least four hundred thousand displaced persons during the next four years.” (Minutes, PCUSA, 1948, Part I, p. 204). [iii] Presbyterian congregations have helped resettle thousands of our brothers and sisters through the years.
Some pastors may preach today that we have nothing to fear. After all, fear not is what Jesus told his disciples on several occasions. Sermons will proclaim that that God is completely in control, life is working out according to God’s plan, God will protect us, and we have no reason for fear. I will not do that.
The world is a broken and fearful place. I know that and you know that. I fear for my African American friends, Native American friends, Hispanic, Latino/Latina friends, Asian American friends in their encounters with law enforcement and in their daily lives within a racist system. I fear for the gun violence that too often tears lives and communities apart. I fear for the homeless on our streets, particularly as winter comes. I fear for my transgendered sisters and brothers. I fear for sisters and brothers who struggle with addiction, or lack access to health care, or who have lost jobs. I fear for those who serve in our military and come home to inadequate support and care. I fear what those who resort to terror might do. Acts of terror are, after all, a form of public theater intended to provoke fear. I fear the possibility, however small, that despite our best screening efforts, a person who wishes to commit and act of terror may be admitted to our country as a refugee. Megan McCardle observes, “There’s no perfect way to screen out Syrian terrorists from Syrian refugees. It may be that someone we let in will, eventually, do something horrible. In fact, that’s a risk with any immigrant we let in, or for that matter, any baby we allow to be born.”[iv]
We live in a broken and fearful world.
And so it is right and natural that we fear.
But, we fear as those who follow the Jesus – as those who proclaim Christ as ruler. And that makes all the difference.
We fear. But we refuse to allow fear to rule our actions and decisions.
We recognize that courage is not the absence of fear; it is going ahead despite our fear. Indeed as John McCutcheon puts it, “courage has no meaning without fear.”[v] Jesus had his moment in Gethsemane where he first prayed that the cup before him might be removed before he prayed that God’s will be done.
We realize that we need to understand fearful situations as well as we can. For example, we might learn about the vetting process for refugees. It is long and complicated. And it is available online from the White House. Refugees are the most carefully screened travelers to the United States.[vi] We might learn about our country’s history with refugees and immigrants. We might look at what other countries are doing in response to refugees and acts of terror. We might consider how important it is to integrate refugees into society.
We remember that Jesus was a refugee. The 1951 Refugee Convention spells out that a refugee is someone who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”[vii] There was no UNHCR at the time. And the borders may not have been as clearly delineated as they are today. But under the terms of that definition, when Mary and Joseph took the infant Jesus to Egypt to keep him safe from Herod, they became refugees.[viii]
Jesus teaches us that what the way we individually and collectively treat the least of our sisters and brothers is the way we treat him. That would seem particularly appropriate in relation to our brothers and sisters who are refugees—in the world’s refugees we encounter the Refugee Jesus.
The Refugee Jesus is the one who we celebrate today on this Christ the King Sunday. Lots of causes and commitments and things vie to have first place in our hearts and minds and souls and strength. But today we reaffirm our intention that Jesus is Lord. Jesus and no one else. Jesus and nothing else. We know we we will fall and fail as we try to live out that proclamation, but we also know that by God’s grace we can pick ourselves back up and try again. We are not who we should be – but we are not who we used to be – and we know that God in Christ can help us become who we could be.
On this day, our Gospel reading seems a bit out of place. We are at the end of the church year—Christ the King Sunday. And we read part of the confrontation between Jesus and Pilate that follows his arrest and precedes his execution. It’s the stuff of Holy Week. But here it is for today.
The reason lies in the content of the discussion between Pilate and Jesus. Pilate wants to know who Jesus is. The buzz on the street says that Jesus is a king. The Twitter feeds were filled with #Jesus #King of the Jews. “King” is a political term. And Pilate is a political person. He needs to know what is going on.
“Are you the King of the Jews?” Pilate asks.
Jesus turns the question back on Pilate. He asks Pilate the question he asked his followers—the question he asks all people—the question he asks us. “Who do you say, I am?” He does not put it that directly. But that’s the heart of Jesus’ response. For who we say Jesus is makes all the difference in how we live.
Pilate tries again. He notes that Jesus has been “delivered” to him by others. He wants to know why. “What have you done?”
Jesus ignores this question and returns to the idea of kingship. “My kingdom is not of this world.” He is a different style of leader from what is contained in Pilate’s political understanding of being a king. The reign of Jesus is not “of the world” of political calculation, accusation, and contending interests.
Pilate, tries one more time: “So you are a king?”
Jesus replies, “You say that I am a king.” And again, Jesus describes what type of a king – a ruler – a leader – he is. Jesus spoke to Pilate – but his words have echoed to all people since – his words speak to us today.
The political understanding of a king involved struggle and domination. When we listen to Jesus – not just in this passage – but to his voice as consistently revealed in the Gospels – we know that his reign is about the dignity and equality of all – it is about love and caring and sharing.
Jesus’ ministry and mission is “to testify to the truth” – to proclaim the Good News of God’s love and grace – to call women and men to live in new ways –rooted in God’s love and justice – living as Jesus lived, loving as Jesus loves.
The reign of Christ has no geographical boundaries. Christ’s reign is about faith and hope and grace and love. His reign consists of followers who listen to his voice and seek to do his will and share love in his name and trust in his grace.
So we give thanks today for Jesus in whom God came among us. We give thanks that the story of Jesus did not end in a cold, smelly barn. It did not end as the Jesus and his parents fled to Egypt, becoming refugees. It did not end even on the cross. God raised Jesus and the story continues.
We give thanks for Jesus who invites us to live in new, abundant ways. We give thanks that Jesus calls us to enter into the story—to love one another. To welcome the newcomer. To build relationships across the diversities God creates.
As we consider responding to our sisters and brothers who are refugees, we quickly realize we cannot do everything to meet their needs. But as Archbishop Oscar Romero taught us, each of us can do something.
Perhaps we can write a letter to elected officials. Or give money. Or work with refugees who have arrived—providing transportation—becoming friends—helping gather needed household supplies. I have a number of friends who have recently had their first babies. They are participating in the Carry the Future project started by a mother from California that provides baby carriers to families that arrive in Greece.[ix] That is not everything. But it is something. And if you have ever carried a baby, you know it is something that can make a difference. Each of us can do something. Each of us can find concrete ways to love as we follow the Refugee Jesus who is Christ the King.
In his statement, “Choose welcome, not fear,” the Rev. Grady Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) noted that, after the crucifixion of Jesus, his disciples hid in fear. They gathered in an upper room and locked the doors. But God had other plans. Jesus appeared to them and said, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you’.[x] We who proclaim Christ as King were not meant to hide. We were meant to walk out in hope and compassion. Fear feeds terror. The Refugee Jesus calls us, invites us, challenges us, transforms us to witness to the Gospel with generous hospitality—to live as Jesus lived—to love as Jesus loves.[xi]
In the face of terror and in the face of fear, hope and faith and love are the way forward; they are the way to life.
As we follow the refugee Jesus; as we proclaim Christ the King, may we live in hope, faith, and love. Today and all days.
[viii] Matthew 2:13-15
[x] John 20:21
[xi] This paragraph draws heavily on the Rev. Gradye Parsons’ statement posted at http://www.pcusa.org/news/2015/11/17/choose-welcome-not-fear/