Sunday Message at Lincoln United Methodist
Abraham “heard the Lord” telling him to go to a strange land. Have you heard the Lord call you? Some say that He is always calling – but we are not always listening. Some say they have heard the Lord calling like a voice, without sound, that speaks directly to their heart, without words. Some say they experience the call of the Lord through another person or group of people, that inspire them, move them to act. But always the call is to serve a destiny that serves righteousness. And always the call comes when you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, the presence of the Almighty which makes you feel humble.
Abraham’s faith was in his obedience. He went even though he did not know what lay in store for him: he was led by the Spirit. His mission was to plant and grow and harvest the people of god in the land God sent him to. He came when he was called. TheLord told him to go to a ne place, to live a righteous life and to defend and care for a family that the Lord would make into a righteous people “as many as the stars in the sky.” Later we learn that the Lord had a purpose for this people, for this people were to make the Ways of Justice and love and obedience to God’s law known in the world.
There are many here who have answered the call without knowing – yet knowing in their heart, for generations, that they are called. Our ministry is based on a vision: we believe that for generations, people have been called to come north to the United States, to a land strange to them, not to become part of this nation but to change this nation. We believe this nation has become an empire that causes great suffering in the world, and especially in Latin America. And we believe that the people who have come here from the south are blessed by God, in spite of the difficulties they face, to grow in numbers until they have the power to transform this nation to a fountain of justice for the world and for the people who live here. To fulfill this destiny, they have only to work hard, keep their families together, and raise their children, the next generation, in the ways of righteousness. And yet sometimes we forget why we have been called…
Today is the fifth week in the time of the Harvest. Harvest time is the time when we realize what God has done with us over the year, how we have changed and how things have changed around us. We are guided in our understanding of the harvest by the Book of Revelations, and today we are in chapter 13. In this chapter we learn about the other “trinity”.
There is the trinity of evil: The dragon, the beast and the false prophet. The dragon is the serpent from the garden of eden, satan, grown large through the ages. He still represents the temptation to make an evil choice. He calls on people to forget the law of God and instead to decide what is right and wrong to suit their own selfish desires.
Then there is the beast which the dragon has grown – and that represents the empire that has been built under the influence of the dragon, the empire based on selfishnesss and greed and violence. But remember that this beast chased the woman across the desert and up to heaven. Remember that this beast was defeated in heaven, fatally wounded, and thrown down to earth to die.
And now we learn of another beast, a false prophet who came to heal the wounded beast and to make people bow down to it. Every one had to have the mark of the beast – or they were illegal and unable to do business in the empire.
The prophet was talking about the Roman Empire but what he says reveals what is going on with this empire today. We have seen the dragon of hate chasing women with children across the desert. We have seen the beast that this nation has become and we have seen it wounded, its economy self-destroying from greed. And surely we have seen the false prophet who came to heal the beast.
The false prophet “looked like the lamb, like Jesus.” Obama repeated the words of Martin Luther King. He was the first African American President. He promised to fight for justice. He promised legalization for the undocumented. But instead what did he do? He forgot his promises. But he healed the banks and the insurance companies and the wall street demons. He is the false prophet that healed the beast.
The scripture tells us that in the face of the beast, we must show patience and perseverance. In the face of the false prophet, we must have wisdom. So today, we need to talk about the faith of Abraham, about patience and perseverance and about wisdom.
During the Bush years, as the hate against us was growing, we had to have patience and perseverance. We march and demonstrated. We exposed the hate and injustice. We demanded change – and we fought to keep our families together.
During the time of the false prophet, we had to show wisdom. He delayed his promise to change the law until there was no chance to pass it. Then he asked us to wait until the next election.
Instead, we showed wisdom. We showed our community that Obama had the power to stop most of the deportations using his executive authority. Once we ha convinced and unified our community, we threatened to withhold our votes for him. He caved in and we won a new policy. We have more to win – but we must also learn how to use what we have won to defend our families and to defend our next generation.
The false prophet also passed a new health plan. It was not a good plan for us. It saved the insurance companies but excluded millions of people from our own community. We talk now of the “20 year life gap”. We will live 20 years less than those in the rich communities because we do not detect diseases early enough to treat them.
Therefore, with wisdom, we are preparing as part of our ministry, a campaign to screen 10,000 people next year for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and hiv/aids. We want to get early detectin so we can treat these diseases before they take 20 years from our lives. And we are going to train the young people, La FuerZa, to carry out this work so that they will learn to defend our community.
We also know that we forced the false prophet to back down on deportations because we had unity and because we had growing numbers and because more and more are eligible to vote. Wisdom teaches us that we must register the solidarity vote: every person whois undocumented must find someone who is a citizen, or can become a citien, and register them to vote. This will force the false prophet to recognize and respect the community.
The Harvest of this year is these new ministries of the Family – of Familia Latina Unida –
The Faith of Abraham calls us to work hard, to keep our families together and to raise up a new generation in righteousness, to grow in numbers and in unity until we are the majority. As we grow in numbers and unity, we are better able to defend ourselves. And the better we defend ourselves, the more we will grow in numbers and in unity.
The families here have been called – but sometimes, on the long journey we have been called to make, we forget why we have been called. We forget our greatest treasure which is our family. We throw it away on stupid things. We treat each other badly instead of honoring each other and helping each other. We judge each other instead of forgiving each other and making each other stronger. We forget about God and we find ourselves bowing down to other strange Gods, to the beast that won’t een recognize our humanity. God is still calling – but we have stopped listening.
To open our ears and hear God, to feel the Holy Spirit and be led by it on sure and certain pathways, there are things we must do.
We must pray – both alone, as families and as a church. And we must offer prayers to strangers who are in need for those prayers will also build us up.
We must make sure the children are growing up knowing about the Lord – and that is why we are asking you to bring children to the Sunday school each week. But when you go home, find out what they learned and talk about it with them.
And we must not let our family get isolated from the other families which God joins us together with. So we ar forming committees and we ask you to be part of these committees. Each committee should be made up of 5 to 10 families. When it grows larger, it should split and become two committees. The committees will support each other and do the work of defending people against deportations and against the 20 year life gap.
Last week we dedicated the new portrait of the virgin of the Migrantes. She is the dark virgin that has the fetures of Juan Diego. And so we want to call our committees “Las Morenos” Familia Latina Unida is building these “Morenos” in Mexico and in a few weeks we wil have visitors from Mexico to learn how they are building “Las Morenos” there.
And we must continue to build La FuerZa: a protest army, an army of trained defenders of the people, who have the skills to fight deportations and the 20 year life gap and who have the courage to stand up for our people.
This is the harvest of the year: a harvest of ministries that flow from the faith of Abraham, who heard the calling of the Lord to go to a strange land, defend his family, remain righteous and become as many as the stars in the sky.
We thank God today for the harvest, for the kministries he has givenus. Open your ears and hear the call that is always being made. Know that God is with you when you answer it.
There is a wonderful thing about the faith of Abraham – when you hear the call of the Lord and you answer it. When you hear the call in the presence of the Holy Spirit, it lifts you up. If you are sick, it heals you. If you are discouraged, it puts new hope in your hearts; if you have grown indifferent towards each other, it opens your hearts to each other; it can turn defeat into victory, misfortune into wisdom and anger into joy in your life. Listen, Listen for the call – open your hearts to the Spirit and the Spirit of the Lord will fill you up.