(Sunday Sermon, Lincoln United Methodist Church,English Version)
It’s Fathers day – and it’s the second week in Pentecost. Remember Pentecost is the time after the Resurrection. In scripture, the disciples have watched Jesus ascend to heaven and suddenly they have felt that they are in the presence of God, they call it the Holy Spirit – and that gave them the courage to out to the city, where they are hunted as outlaws, and begun their spiritual movement of resistance again.
Pentecost for us is the time when we turn to each other, we turn to each other to get our inspiration, when we see Jesus in each other, and when we accept the unity that God gives us as the power we need to keep our families together, to raise our children in the way of the Lord, to begin lives as new adults, and to be the people of God with the destiny God gives us.
Today we honor all the fathers but in particular we honor those fathers “who came back” – and those who brought their families across to be with them and those who came to join and support their families.
They did not come for the American Dream. They did come to meet their responsibilities. They came to be fulfilled, and to be made new, by the love of their children. This service today is not a media event, because we are talking about people, we are honoring men who live outside the law in this country. This is a Kingdom event. Because these fathers who came back, they live outside the law of man but they live according to the law of God, the law which says families joined together should not be separated And they are examples for us of how to live with God and God’s law first in our lives. Today we see Jesus in these fathers.
In the history of our ministry there have been many stories made, stories that could have been in the Gospels if they were written today. A young mother with two children came to our church one day for help. Her husband had been arrested at their home, in his pajamas, early in the morning and deported. The day on which he was arrested was Good Friday. We tried to support the family in the months that followed. But, like so many fathers, this man risked the dangers of the border, and the risk of imprisonment for returning after he was deported, to come back to work and support his family and to raise his children.
Now when he came back, we were planning a stations of the cross in front of the immigration offices. It was again Good Friday, one year later. The returned father came forward and said he would like to play the part of Jesus in the procession. We discussed the risks with him, but he persisted. I believe he needed to restore himself from the shame of being arrested in front of his young children, ot not even being allowed to get dressed, and the pain of their separation, to restore his faith.
He indeed was Jesus in the procession and at the end he laid down on the cross at the feet of the ICE agents. He looked up at them with defiance. When the agents moved to pick him up the prayers of the people stopped them.
The media interviewed him and played that night for thousands on T.V. the testimony of “an undocumented Jesus.”
It was a wonderful time. Yet what I remember most, were the words of his young daughter as she said, with tears of joy, “He came back. My Daddy came back!” – Just so the joy of his followers when Jesus returned to them after the crucifixion. It is this brother and the fathers like him that we honor today.
Fathers have a special place in scriptures. The Scripture talks about Abraham. God made a covenant with Abraham. If Abraham would be faithful to God, and keep his laws, then God would give him a son and that son would be the beginning of a great people who would become as many as the stars in the sky.
What fathers are called to do is to be faithful in raising their families so that together these families will be a people that is a witness to the love and justice of God. This is the responsibility that fathers receive for the gift of having children. And I ask you to be honest fathers – there is no greater moment in our lives, no greater joy, than when we see our children born, a joy that continues as we watch them grow. Yet it is a gift that God gives us for which he expects us to fulfill our responsibilities.
Part of the covenant that God made with Abraham was that Abraham would pick up and go to a strange land where the family he was given could survive. That story was repeated over and over again. Abraham’s son was Isaac and Isaac’s son was Jacob. And Jacob was called by God to take his family to Egypt in a time of famine so that they could have food, so that they could survive. And when they finally left Egypt, as God promised, they had become a great people, and Joshua called the people together and renewed the covenant with God at a place called Schecem.
The covenant that Joshua asked the people to join was to be faithful to their God and to reject the “false Gods” of the foreign lands they were in. You see that is a responsibility of fathers. God asked Joshua and his people to remember that God had led them through all these years, since the days of Abraham. He said, Joshua, I did ask you to go to a strange land, so that your families could survive, but while you are there, I want you to be faithful to me, to the law I gave you, to your history and your culture.
God told Joshua, as he is telling fathers today, teach your children who they are, who their people are and who their God is. Don’t let them get hung up on “the American Dream” but remember that the American nightmare is what put the countries of Mexico and Latin America into poverty and violence – and forced you to come here in the first place.
Don’t let them get hung up on this North American culture, a culture which encourages them to forget about their families, forget about forming new families, and just go selfishly for themselves, just go for making the money or for enjoying the fast pleasures of a rich country that grew rich on the suffering of their own people.
God asked Joshua – as he asks fathers today to teach – and to teach by example, the example of their own lives.
The Bible tells the story of the Israelites, two thousand years ago. But that is the never ending story of an oppressed people in struggle. And God gave us the miracle of the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe so that the people of Juan Diego might know that these scriptures, that this Holy teaching, was for them, that they were a people God had chosen, that they are a people of God today, the People of Juan Diego.
That is why what God told Abraham and Jacob and Joshua is what he is still telling fathers today. And God has made a covenant with these fathers, who have also gone to a strange land. If you will keep his laws, and if you will raise your children in His ways, teach them who they are and who their people are, then God will make your family to survive and your people will become as many as the stars in the sky.
The proof of that covenant is in the numbers, for God has blessed the people that came here from Mexico and Latin America to become as many as the stars in the sky. No one can deny that Latinos are the fastest growing population in this nation, nor that they will soon become the majority in many places. That is God’s work, God’s covenant. As God promises, they will inherit this land. And when they become the majority they will have the power to change this nation and change the terrible things it has done to the people of the whole world. That is their destiny, the destiny that God gives through the covenant of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
And that is also why today we especially honor the fathers who came back. They did not come back for the American dream. There is little possibility in the law today that these fathers who came back illegally – after they were deported – can become citizens and be part of the American Dream. I am not saying it is impossible – because all things are possible through God. But they did not come with that expectation. There was nothing selfish in what they did. They came back, facing the constant fear of arrest, to do what God asked them to do, to support and lead their families, to keep God’s covenant.
And because they chose to keep God’s law, to fulfill God’s covenant, because they loved their wives and children as God made them to do, they defied the unjust, hypocritical law of this government. Today, they are our heroes, they are God’s heroes –and they show us that we must follow their example.
God has made a people to be fruitful and multiply. He has given life abundantly. He asks you to reject the North American gods of greed and selfishness, of individualism and moral corruption – and instead to obey the laws of God and to remember the history – and the destiny – of your people, the way these fathers have done.
Now Pentecost is also the time of the restoration of the criminalized. Jesus was called a criminal and crucified and we know that His crucifixion was done out of a cruel and hateful hypocrisy. On Pentecost, Peter defied that hypocrisy, and proclaimed in public that God had confirmed that Jesus was innocent through his resurrection. And then God called on the people to repent, to confess their sins, and to stand up with the disciples and form a new community of believers. And they were baptized in the Holy Spirit, the way John baptized the people in the water
This is our Pentecost now. We are outside the law – but under the law of God: so we ask for forgiveness for our sins against God and we accept the renewal of the Holy Spirit.
We will not worship false Gods and false laws but we have to replace their law with God’s law if we are to survive. Following God’s law is always a struggle. And as fathers, we have to admit that we have often fallen. We have not been the examples we should have been.
Our children don’t need to see us drunk and stupid. Our children don’t need to see us disrespecting our wives. Our children do need to see us in church and in prayer. They do need to see us struggling to help our families survive no matter how difficult it is. God didn’t make this covenant with us, give us the gift of children, to see us sitting around crying and blaming others. He has lifted us up so that we might lift others up.
This is our time of Pentecost. We are called to struggle this year to demand that this President stop the deportations and separation of families. We will be in front of his campaign office in Chicago tomorrow with “the lockbox” We will be with Congressman Gutierrez on June the 30th at the Teamsters hall. We will claim our place in the USA on July 4th at St. Pius, becoming citizens, and registering to vote; and we will be in Washington DC in front of the White House on July 26th. We are going to keep on struggling this year. We are going to keep on inspiring others to struggle. It is not just that we will be demanding an end to deportations and separation of families but more important, we need to follow the example of those fathers who came back, that we will be saying we are God’s people, we are the families in covenant with God.
Today, we accept the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
In the presence of the Lord, we say I am a father. I ask forgiveness for my sins and praise God that he makes me a new father with a family that is made new
In the presence of the Lord, I look into the eyes of my father and I say “this is my father”. I ask forgiveness for false judgments I may have made and I forgive my father for his sins, so that we can be made a new family
In the presence of the Lord we say, “We are a people that God has chosen.” We are not criminals, we are not seeking to take what others have, but we are a force for redemption in this country: Deny and reject us at the peril of your own soul
In the presence of the Lord, we say we are judged only by the Holy Spirit and the Law of God – not the law of the government
In the presence of the Holy Spirit, today we are made new, we are ready to struggle every day, struggle with each other, to find the unity in our families, to find the unity in our church, to find the unity in our movement, the unity which God offers those who open their hearts and accept the covenant he offers us.
In the presence of the Lord, the Holy Spirit all around us, lifting us up, we honor God today and we honor the fathers on this father’s day, June 19th,2011, Amen, amen, amen…