Welcome everyone tochurch this morning. This morning I was remembering that we did in our ministry everal years ago. There was something called theFreedom ride. We organized buses from cities all over the country to go to New York City. The resonit was called the Freedom Ride because there were publically people both with and without papers on every bus. When they did stop one of the buses, nobody would show their papers. Eventually they had tolet them go on.
On our bus we carried with us a statute of theVirgin of Guadalupe. And when we got to New York city, looking on the shore out on the Statute of Liberty, Elvira Arellano got off the bus carrying the Virgin of Gaudalupe.She began to march towards the shore where you could see the statute of liberty. Thepeople were signing as they marched with her. Hundreds of people broke away from the crowd and they followed Elvira. And when Elvira got to the shore she held up the Virgin high above her head. The people prayed.
Why were we doing that? Why did we bring the Virgin of Guadalupe thousands of miles to confront the statute of liberty.
The statute of liberty wasing that “This is the greatest country in the world, the nation of liberty and justice for all.” And they were saying that 12 million of you were not part of it. It was the same things she told the slaves. We have freedom, but you do not.
Elvira and those on the bus wanted to say, “There is another lady, a wonderful miraculous lady, who does welcome us. They wanted to confront the cold hearted statue of liberty with the warm and loving and wondrous Virgin of Guadalupe, the one who looked down at Juan Diego and called him “My dignified son.”
It was a powerful moment – and yet I think we are double minded about the statue of liberty – sometimes we still worship in front of that statute instead of worshiping God in the presence of the Virgin.
We are in the sixth week now of Harvest Time. Harvest time is for us to recognize the gifts we have been given during the year, the ministries we have been called to. Next, in assembly time we will organize those who have seen and heard and then we will begin to prepare for the year to come and what God will do with us.
But what have we seen and heard?
We should have seen that the American Dream is a Nightmare:
We read in scripture today about the Rich Young Ruler. I could not help but think about Barack Obama. He was elected by us – but in office he pledged himself to that old American dream. He saved the rich, the banks and insurance companies and let the poor lose their homes. He forgot about his promise to the children and families of the undocumented.
In scripture, the rich young ruler asked Jesus how he could enter the Kingdom of God. He said he followed all the law. But Jesus told him to reach the Kingdom he needed to give up all his wealth – to the poor – and follow Jesus in his ministry.
Is it bad to have money, to have wealth? No. What is wrong, what is evil, is to gain your wealth at the expense of others. But that is exactly how the rich of this country became rich: off the misfortune of others, off the suffering of others.
The statute of Liberty stands for the American dream: the idea that anyone in this nation can become rich. Anyone – but not everyone. In fact, the richest 1% of this nation have more wealth than all of the rest combined. And the wealth they have collected has come at the expense of the poverty and the violence that this nation has brought to the rest of the world.
In scripture today, in the book Revelations, we see the statue of liberty described in detail as a prostitute, a whore of Babylon, that has involved all the world in sins that are piled up to heaven. She promises the American Dream but delivers the American nightmare.
We came here double minded – half believing in the “American Dream” – and we did not disabuse our children of this dream.
The dream is not harmless. It is not just that we may never get the pot of gold, never win the lottery. It is that we become willing to achieve success at the expense of others. It is the “American Way.” If you accept the culture of the American Dream, pretty soon we are willing to get some pleasures at the expense of others. We stop thinking even about the ones we love, our families. We become selfish – because selfishness is the American Way. And soon, our families, our friendships, our community, our church falls apart.
The American Dream is not God’s Way.
Jesus warned the rich man that he would have to give up his wealth and follow Jesus to know the Kingdom. Why?
Is wealth bad? No, injustice is bad! Becoming wealthy at the expense of others is bad. Because it separates, it does not bring together. It divides, it does not unify. It weakens, it does not strengthen.
If you love someone, truly – you want them to be happy. You are willing to sacrifice your own desires to help them. In America, that makes you a chump. In God’s world, it gives you the keys to the Kingdom.
But America, the Statute of Liberty, says, “If you have papers, or you get your papers, then turn your back on the undocumented.”
Americca says, “if you have health insurance, then turn your back on those who do not have it.”
America says, if you find a place in this country then turn your back on the country you come from.
But that is not God’s way and if you do it, if you turn your back on your people, it will come back to haunt you and make your life miserable.
We were given this year three ministries: defense from deportations, defense from the 20 year life gap, defense from powerlessness through voter registration. And we were given the ministry to form Familia Latina Unida committees to organize these ministries
You need to be part of familia latina unida, you need to be part of a committee, you need to be part of La FuerZa: because otherwise you will be deported, otherwise you will die before your time, otherwise you will be powerless
Let me explains. The new protections we have won are on a case by case basis. If you do not know how to protect yourself you will be deported. You need to know and to teach others.
The same is true about health care. We want to screen ten thousand people so that can have early detection of treatable sieases.Obama’s new health plan will not cover most of us.You need to be part of these committees for early detection of treatable diseases so that you will not die 20 years ahead of your ime. If we don’t organize – no one will help us but us.
We want to train specialists in each of these committees and in La FuerZa – so that they know how to fight deportations, they know how to run our health campaigns. But there is another kind of specialist, another kind of leader, we need to develop next year. There is another kind of defense we need.
We were given the gift of the ministry of familia latina unida. That ministry is a kind of covenant. We committed ourselves to struggle for families, for families that would love and respect each other, work hard, raise their children in the ways of the Lord and find joy in the blessings that God gives them.
It has not always been easy but God has been with us. Today when we take community the gift of the bread came from he Martinez family. I think today about the Martinez family. When their little boy Charlie was in the hospital dying, they gave their lives over to saving him. They were undocumented but they went public to get bone marrow donations. I remember being on a television show with Thomas, a cable show with a varius racis men named Beck. Tomas went on the show to get donations for his son. The T.V. host asked Tomas if he was not afraid to come on T.V knowing that he was undocumented. Tomas said “I don’t care what happens to me for Charlie is my son.”
We wanted a miracle. And we found a donor, but he died anyway. They stuck with him. When he died they were very sad. And then they lost their home. But God has given them two more beautiful children and they have not been deported. The Martinez’ were not bitter but thankful for the gift that God gaves them. They came here this week ready to continue the struggle. It has not always been easy – but God is with us when we are faithful. Those two new children are U.S. citizens and they will grow up to make a place for all of us in this country!
We are led in this ministry by the scripture and the Holy Spirit through the seasons of the year. That spiritual journey each year has shown us how to struggle, how to defend our people. We could look back over the years of this ministry and talk about each year: about the mass marches, about Elvira’s sanctuary. Each year, God showed us a way to struggle, to defend our families and our community.
We have only to look at this year. For the idea to organize a national campaign to force Obama to stop the separation of families came from here – and God gave us the means to organize and win – to back down the President of the United States.
We will see the benefits for many of our families – but those benefits will come to many more people because we fought for everyone, not just for ourselves.
But this gift came because we accepted the covenant. That covenant calls for us to stop being double minded. It calls for us to “come out of Babylon”, to put aside the selfishness of the American Dream, commit ourselves to serve each other and to serve our people. God has given us the scripture, and given us his presence in prayer, and his presence in the Virgin, to guide us.
So next year we will also train the Spiritual Guides. We will hold 8 one day retreats, one in each season next year, to educate spiritual guides to the Way of Scripture, the Way of Holiness.
I know some of you look around you and see a better life than exists in Mexico or Guatamala or Honduras – even with the hardships you face here. You don’t see the poverty and the violence. And sometimes poverty and violence makes people mean.
But the prophecy we read in Revelations is proving true. The Prostitute, the Statue of Liberty, it is falling apart. It will not recover. As the economic wealth of this country slips away, we are seeing a meanness is growing up in this nation, the meanness of the Tea Party. Theprophecy is true. Thisnation is declining – but it doesn’t have to be bad for you.
In the parable, the King invited the successful people to his banquet. Hey all had papers. They all had money. But they were too busy with their own affairs to come to the banquet of the Lord. So he sent his servants out to gather up the poor and working people and brought them to his people.
God has brought a people to this land to make it their inheritance, to transform it. You will find a life here, even as this nation slips into decline, if you keep the covenant to be servants of your people, if we make ourselves strong, in each other, in the Lord. Don’t turn your back on your families, on your people, on the country youcome from. Don’t turn your bank on God! God has invited you to the banquet, his banquet. God will protect you. Follow his ways and know the joy, the real joy, in the life the Lord has to offer. Amen Amen Amen
SCRIPTURES FOR HARVEST 5
Matthew 22:1-10 The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Luke 18:18-25 The Rich and the Kingdom of God
A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother. “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Revelation 17:1-6 Babylon, the Prostitute on the Beast
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.” Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. The name written on her forehead was a mystery: BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES, AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished.