Sunday Message, Lincoln and Adalberto UMC
“When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. 15 Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. 16 But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.”
We want to report this morning on the meeting with Congressman Gutierrez yesterday and our meetings last week with Homeland Security in Washington D.C. about the new deportations policy – and I want to put those discussions in the context of the spiritual struggle we are going through in this time of the harvest.
What have we gotten in the harvest of this year? It is unlikely that any legalization will be passed in Congress for two or three more years and they have been deporting people at the rate of almost 500,000 per year. The victory we have won this year will protect at least 4 million people who are undocumented now. It doesn’t mean they can apply for legal status. They will remain undocumented – at least for these several years – but if ICE arrests them, they will be let go. If they have been brought to court, they are going to be released. This does not apply to everybody but it applies to those who have U.S. citizen spouses or children, to people who were brought here by their parents at a young age and to certain other special cases – as long as they have no criminal convictions and have not been previously deported. In many cases those who have been put in deportation will now also be able to apply for work permits.
And this week we won another victory. The Cook County Board passed a new law. Cook County will no longer cooperate with ICE in detaining people for them. If you are bonded out, then you can walk out. and not be turned over to ICE.Cook County is the first in the nation to stand up!
So there will be millions of people who will be able to work, to send remittances back home, and they will be able to stay and raise their U.S citizen children.
Others will still face deportation, although we have Homeland Security in retreat. Before, Homeland Security was arrogant. They said “We are going to enforce the law no matter what you do or say.” But now they are saying “We don’t want to separate families; we don’t want to deport dreamers and we now admit we have the power to stop deporting such persons.” They have given us a way to protect our people. Our resistance has broken the arrogance of the President. If we continue to struggle, we will get protections extended to many more of our people as the year goes on. It will be an ongoing battle that will have to be fought on a case by case basis. We will have to inform and train our Familia Latina Unida Defense Committees and our La FuerZa Juventud paralegals so that we can use what we have won to defend our families.
In Mexico too, Elvira and Familia Latina Unida are winning protections every day for the migrants traveling up to the north. They have organized to bring attention to the exploitation and extortion and murder they face at the hands of both the government and the gangsters. They have defended the migrants and forced the government even to give them health care. But they are still undocumented. And the people we have protected here, they are still undocumented. We are still fighting on a case by case basis
What does it mean to be a “protected undocumented”? What does it mean to be constantly in battle?
Two weeks ago we talked about how the angels, in the scriptures, came and sealed 144,000 people in the midst of the riding of the four horsemen of the apocalypse and the cries of the innocent. Today we are also in the midst of terrible and dangerous times. Today is the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 and the wave of hate it released against our community. Remember Elvira said, “They were looking for Osama Bin Laden but they found me and my son, because we weren’t hiding.”. And we face unemployment and political division. And around us are the earthquakes, the floods and the fires. But we said God protected us, OUR angels “sealed” our people.
We said God worked through us to extend protection to the undocumented. And we said we should take that as a sign of his intervention in our lives – because God has a purpose for this people, has a destiny for them.
But the scripture this week goes on to share the vision of the lady chased by the dragon, the lady who gives birth to the Christ child.
That Lady calls out to our faith and our resistance. Today we read what John wrote in chapter 12 of Revelations, the center of his vision. For God gave John a vision of a lady, pregnant with a child, a beautiful lady that appeared to John in the heavens. And when he describes her he describes one like the Virgin of Guadalupe. A great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon at her feet and a crown with 12 stars at her head.
The Lady was giving birth to a child, to new life. Something new was being born. Then as the lady gave birth to her son, a terrible red dragon appeared and began to chase them. This dragon of hate chased them across the desert. For many of us it brings back memories of crossing the desert, chased by the Migra. And when it said the Dragon created a river that almost drowned her, we recall the hundreds of people who have drowned trying to make the crossing, forced by the Migra into the most dangerous waters. And so we see this vision today, this Lady, like the Virgin of Guadalupe, and she is for us the Virgin of the Migrantes. But then there is still the dragon…
And when the angels brought the Lady and the child up to heaven to protect them, the dragon also chased them up to heaven. There John in his vision saw the battle as Michael and the angels did battle with this terrible dragon. They could not defeat the dragon until they were joined by the lamb, the resurrected Jesus, the one who was not afraid to give up his life for his people. Then the dragon was defeated, killed, and thrown down to earth. Defeated and dying, the dragon chased after the Lady and her child, but the earth protected them. And so this dragon of hate went wildly across the earth, chasing after other children of the lady.
What does the vision mean to us? It means God protected his people, but it also means the struggle with hate continues. The victory was won in heaven, but on earth that dragon still chases us. Why does the Lord still protect this Lady and her child? Remember she had given birth, not just to a child, but to something new and wonderful, a new spiritual relationship with God, a new vision of the family based on a common purpose; a new vision of a people with a purpose and a destiny to persevere and change this nation from one that sucks the blood of Latin America to one that is a fountain of justice for all the world as well as for its own people.
Why did this “something new” have to be born in the midst of the struggle? In truth, the struggle gives us an opportunity to grow: to grow in our character, to grow in our faith, our love and our unity, the strength of our families and our church. For we are not yet ready for our destiny – but God is getting us ready. That is perhaps why he keeps us for a time from being citizens of the nation – so that we will concentrate on being citizens of the Kingdom of God. Remember how James taught us that, with perseverance, difficulties would perfect us. God, has his hand on us, all over this country, God is getting us ready for our destiny.
What is the dragon we struggle with? When we hear the racists talk, we can feel the hate. But what really is this dragon in the vision of the prophet?
The dragon is the same serpent of Genesis, in the first book of the Bible, who tempts Adam and Eve and gets them thrown out of paradise. What did he tempt them to do? He said “God tells you what is right and what is wrong but you don’t have to listen to God. You can decide what is right and wrong to fit your own selfish desires. By the time of the book of Revelations, at the end of the Bible, this serpent of selfishness has grown into a towering dragon, the nations and empires we see today, based on selfishness and greed and violence.
This little temptation, this serpent of selfishness, becomes the law and government and economy of the empire, an unjust and hypocritical law and government and economy that oppresses the poor and defies the law of God by breaking up families. The serpent of selfishness because the Dragon of hate.
In fighting that dragon, in resisting that dragon, we grow stronger in our righteousness. That is why we need to grow in the struggle.
We have been fighting all year for the right of families to stay together. Yet families are falling apart – not from the law but from our own selfishness, the selfishness that grew into a dragon. It still tempts us like a little snake. So we need to be in the struggle so that we can increase in our faith and our righteousness. We need to fight the dragon both physically and spiritually.
As we form the committees in the next few months to defend those who now we can protect from deportation, then we are in the struggle and we must fight that same dragon of hate but also the serpent of selfishness.
And when we form the health committees, to go after the twenty year “death gap” by developing a campaign to screen 100,000 people for early detection of preventable diseases, we are not only fighting the dragon of hate that steals 20 years from the lives of our people, but we are fighting the serpent of selfishness that destroys our families and our love.
And as we continue to organize young people in this struggle, let them grow up in this love and this righteousness, not in the selfishness and meaningless diversions of a sick society around them. Because that is our destiny, to produce new generations that can change this nation.
There are now two representations of the Virgin in our garden. There have been many appearances of the Virgin in our history. At Christmas we will celebrate the Virgin Mary who gave birth to Jesus. She was a wonderful faithful woman, but she did not come in a time of peace. Jesus said “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” – and the prophet told Mary “a sword would pierce her heart” – yet Mary brought peace in the hearts of many and such a powerful faith.
Then the Virgin of Revelations, that came 100 years after Mary, that gave faith and hope to the people, she came in the midst of the oppression of the empire to a people who were “illegal” and had no rights.
And 1500 years later, the Virgin of Guadalupe came to Juan Diego after they were a conquered and discouraged people. She did not end the conquest but she built up the faith of the people. She took the Word of God which was being used to oppress them and gave it to them to make their own. She created such a power.
Elvira took me to Tepeyac and stood where Jaun Diego stood and I felt the Virgin’s presence in the faith of the thousands of people who go there every day. I felt it there but I have also seen the virgin coming in the skies over Damen St. And that is what the new representation that we will dedicate today means, the Virgin of the Migrantes, that is the force, the vision, the presence of God with us. She not only traveled with you, she was waiting here for you, to protect you and build you up as she once built up Juan Diego.
For those who came here, those who struggle against the hate of the dragon, but also within themselves who struggle against the selfishness of the serpent, she is there and she is protecting us; she is calling us; “Defend my people; Defend my families; Raise up my children.” The call of this Lady comes in the midst of struggle, struggle with hate outside, struggle with selfishness inside. That is why we have now won some protection while many are still undocumented. God is preparing us. We have a ways to go! We are not yet ready for our destiny. We have to work on ourselves. We have to work on our families and our children. We have to put the Call of the Virgin before them. We have to put the righteousness of Jesus in their hearts.
It is going to be difficult, but we only grow when we persevere in the struggle, and always we remember, no matter we feel like giving up, no matter sometimes we just give in to selfishness, no matter sometimes we give up even on our own families because the struggle is too hard, but always we must remember the vision: Because the dragon chased the Lady all the way up to heaven. Remember always what happened in heaven: the power of the resurrected Jesus, all the angels that have protected us, they defeated the dragon and they threw him down to earth. He is already dead. He just doesn’t know it. The victory has already been won in heaven. It is our time to claim it, to claim the victory here on earth for the next generation! Amen, Amen Amen…