Assembly Time 3: “Assembly of the Called”
It is assembly time ! Today, we begin to assemble those who have been called this year and to determine together what we have been called by God to do. As we assemble, we need to know that God is with us. We want a sign, we want to know that he has really called us and what he has called us to do.
Today I want to discuss with you what I think God has called us into. And I want to suggest to you that God has called us to build a wall around our people and around each of our families, a wall of respect and faithfulness, a wall that, as it is built, must be defended from a hostile world.
What does it mean to be called by God? Does he speak to you or appear to you? Or does he form his call through your experience, and your faith place, form it in your hearts?
Last year during this same week, we preached a sermon and we called for “A Christmas without Family Separation, A HOLY FAMILY CHRISTMAS!” We said that God had given us a sign, a sign of hope, a sign that called for commitment, when Gutierrez had decided not to run for Mayor but to commit himself to the fight for the undocumented in the next year.
Remember – it seemed hopeless. The President was on the way to deporting a million people, a sin against God – but no one wanted to take on the President because they said the Republicans were worse. But we did! Our young people sat in every Monday at Homeland Security and endured arrests. Later they walked out of 13 high schools and sat down in the downtown streets. Then we took our campaignacross the country with Congressman Gutierrez to 30 cities and finally to Washinton DC and the White House where we told the President “Yes YOU can!” And we moved the President to change his position.
This year we won some important protections against deportation for millions of people – because we struggled. And we have families here that are together because we had faith and because we struggled. We not only sruggled against the unjust law we struggled against the culture and the economic pressures that tear families apart. We prevailed. Because God was with us.
And this year has left in our hearts a decision we must make in order to follow god’s call.
Sometimes we live our lives as if we are at Great America, you know, the amusement park. We have a certain number of hours we are going to stay at the park. We have a certain amount of money we can spend. We look around for the rides we want to go on, we buy our tickets, we take our turns – and then we go home!
We don’t worry about what tomorrow will be like at Great America, because we won’t be there! We will have spent our money and gone home broke and tired. We just try to have the best time we can, perhaps give our kids the best time they could have, and that’s the end of it.
I say we live our lives like we are at Great America because we live as if we have no future in this country. We don’t work to build a church or a community or a people’s organization. Sometimes we don’t even work to hold together our family. “Oh well – he’s gone or she’s gone, or they are going to go anyway, so I let my relationship with them fall apart.” You see, when they make you a migrant, they try to take away your future and they try to make you forget your past, your history. And this affects the way you think about your life. You start living life as if it was a day at Great America.
And we pass that “way of life” on to our children and our young people, and that is a problem. Children pick up our attitudes at a very young age. They grow up with those attitudes inside them. Suddenly we look up and our son or our daughter is on the street, living the street life, throwing away their life on things that don’t mean anything, giving up on their own futures, living for cheap thrills, – and lost in self-destructive violence.
Don’t be surprised when that happens. You work hard You try to teach them – but at the same time they know you are living in Great America, you are a migrant that can be deported at any time, a worker that can lose their job at any time, a family that can lose their home at any time, and that you have no future – so why should they have a future?
We were called to struggle to defend our people this year – and God give us a victory, some tools that we can use to defend our people. And he gave us some health education tools to use to defend our people so that they will have a future. And our faith showed us how to keep our families together through love and reconciliation and a dedicatin toGod’s purpose in our lives. In other words, God spoke to us. We struggled – and God gave us ways to defend our future.
Now as we assemble what we have learned this year, assemble how we have been changed, I believe God is calling us to change the way we think about our lives, to dare to have faith that we have a future here in this community, in this church, on this land.
Moses was called. He was called to go back to Egypt and lead his people out of slavery. Still when God helped him to lead them out of Egypt, they were still in the desert, he was called to ORGANIZE them, to give them responsibilities, so that they would live as if they had a future, even though they were still in the desert.
Gideon was called by God. He was called to free his people from the Midionites who were making their lives impossible. They couldn’t even feed themselves and most believed they had no future. But Gideon was called by God to raise up an army to defend the people, even though his was the weakest clan. He asked for a sign. And the Lord said, “Am I not sending you?” In other words, “Isn’t this God talking to you, CALLING YOU, now?” And the Lord told Gideon to find the ones who were FAITHFUL. A small number so that it would be clear that this was the Lord’s work and the Lord’s victory.
And Nehemiah was called by God. He was called to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in the face of the occupation. You see the Israelites were a conquered people. They were acting like a conquered people. When you are treated as if you have no future in a place, in a nation, then you treat yourself, you treat your family and you treat your community the same way.
On the other hand, if you have faith that God has brought you here for a purpose, that God is doing something wonderful and important with you, than you value your llfe, your family, your church and your community. You work to build relationships that will last a long time. You don’t lie, because lies are always short term since the truth always comes out. You build your relationships on truth and on love, because only love is eternal.
When God called us, a small group, the weakest clan like Gideon, we answered . And He was with us. And there are people here who are together as a family that would now be separated if we had not answered his call. And He stayed with us when we were ready to give up – and he gave us a victory
Some of us got to know the Lord a little better this year. We came to know his purpose for us, for our being in this land. And now we should know, we should treat last year as a sign, that WE ARE CALLED to live as if we had a purpose, as if we and our children and our children’s children had a purpose and a future.
Our community is under attack. We can’t help but think about what is going on in Alabama this week-end. Thousands are leaving their homes, packing up what they can and leaving everything else behind. In Alabama if you don’t show you are a citizen, they are cutting off the water to your house. They are kicking your children out of school. They are refusing to let you get married. And they are checking people’s papers and turning them over to ICE for deportation.
Our community is under attack. Not only from Immigration. When Obama passed comprehensive health reform he publically left us out. He said “No illegals will benefit from this program.” We are denied health care, early detection of treatable diseases and we are therefore robbed of up to 20 years of our life: our future is being taken away because we don’t get the same health care that others get. And your young men and women, boys and girls, are killing each other on the street or destroying their minds with drugs.
We are under attack – but God gave us a way to defend ourselves
We don’t have to live our lives as if tomorrow didn’t matter. As if our lives today had no importance for tomorrow. In fact God calls us to act, to organize like Moses did, to assemble the faithful in resistance like Gideon did – so that our people will take their lives seriously and have faith that they have a future that matters.
Like Gideon, we are called to build the wall: not just to show the world that we are here to stay; not just to show our people that we are here to stay; but to show ourselves and our families that we have a future we should care about.
We are called to build a wall around our own lives: a wall of integrity and purpose and the practice of our faith.
We are called to build a wall around our families: a wall of unity, eating and talking to each other; a wall of truth, of mutual respect; a wall of love and a wall of common purpose.
We are called to build a wall around our communities, building the defence committees that can provide deportation defense; that can provide health defense; and that can make our church the strongest church in the land.
We will build the wall this year because we are called by an almighty God. We will build the wall because WE ARE NOT IN GREAT AMERICA, We are in America, and America is a continent, not a country, a continent that has been ours for centuries and will be ours for centuries to come, the inheritance given to God’s people, to the people of Guadalupe, to the people with whom Jesus still walks today.
Amen Amen Amen