The Blood That Protects Us
Third Week in the Season of the Resurrection
In the Church in the Struggle
We returned this morning from North Carolina – and before that from Mexico City.
Now, in Mexico City we were with Elvira Arellano and other members of Familia Latina Unida in Mexico who have been organizing to protect the migrants coming through Mexico on their way to the United States. After organizing for several years, a law was passed that gave some real protections to the Migrants but the President of Mexico hadn’t put these protections into action.
An important conference had been organized in the Mexican Senate, including Senators from all three parties, religious leaders and activists who were working to defend the migrants from murder, rape, kidnapping and exploitation. We heard testimony of terrible things done to migrants – by both the cartels and government police. We know who the migrants are: they are us. Many are fathers and mothers returning to their families in the U.S. And we heard of the bravery of priests and activists who risked their lives to defend them.
We were asked to speak at that conference, especially because of the work we are involved in here – and because everyone knows that the source of the problem is in the United States, in its broken immigration law, in its unjust economic policies towards Latin America. What occurred to me, as I was preparing to speak, was that we were doing the same things on both sides of the border. We were organizing protections to defend our people, organizing to keep the wickedness of the world from destroying the loving unity of families and the dignity of workers. In both countries, Familia Latina Unida is organizing to force the executive branch to give protections to the undocumented-case by case.
After Mexico City, we were in North Carolina, preparing for the case of Gabino Sanchez. In fact, we were working to strengthen the protections of prosecutorial discretion so that it would apply to more people.
I know the name of our ministry is Familia Latina Unida SIN FRONTERAS, but sometimes I forget that we are organizing in the same way on both sides of the border.
What unites us is the gifts of faith, the gifts that were revealed to the disciples by the appearances of the resurrected Jesus. We have talked about the gifts of Baptism, and the gift of reconciliation. Today we focus on the gift of communion which was revealed to two of the followers of Jesus on the road to Emaus.
Jesus had been crucified. His followers were on the run. It seemed like his movement had been crushed. Two of his people were walking back to their home, on the road to emaus. They came upon a stranger who, as he talked, made a big impression on them. They were discouraged – and they wondered that he was not discouraged. Didn’t he know about the crucifixion of Jesus? Didn’t he know about the trouble we were in? Didn’t he know our hopes had been crushed?
Evidently not. The stranger talked with authority and with courage – and he began to open the meaning of the scriptures to them. They invited him to eat dinner with them at their home. But it wasn’t until he raised up the bread, broke it, and gave thanks, as he had at the last supper, that they recognized they were in the presence of the resurrected Jesus- and then he disappeared and left them speechless and moved in their souls.
In this appearance of Jesus, during the season of resurrection, we remember and we celebrate the gift of communion. So this morning, we want to talk about the gift of communion, what it means and what it means to us in this season of our lives, our church and our struggle.
Remember the last supper happened during the ancient celebration of Passover, and communion is based on that ancient story of Passover. Remember the people of God were in slavery and Pharaoh would not let them go. God had brought six plagues on Pharaoh but still he would not let them go. Finally, the Lord said, I will kill your first born boys.” And the Lord told the Israelites to sacrifice a lamb and paint the lamb’s blood on their doors – so that the plague that would kill the first born boys of the Egyptians would not kill the first born of the Israelites.
What happened in the original story? First, all of the people of God took the same action in their houses. They all acted at the same time. And they all acted out of a common faith that God would save them, that God was a God of justice.
Second, God did act. He intervened in the lives of the people and they were freed from the bonds of slavery. Afterwards, God told the people to remember that day every year and celebrate “Passover”, the day God led death to pass over the houses of his faithful.
The sacrifice of Jesus, his blood that was shed upon the cross, did in fact save the people of God. Let me explain so it is quite clear. Every week the people who followed the teachings of Jesus celebrated communion, just the way we do. They no longer had to go to the temple, which was run by the hypocrites who had murdered Jesus. And when the Romans destroyed that temple and the people were scattered everywhere, the faithful continued to practice communion, to remember the sacrifice of Jesus and to remember that he was risen from the dead.
In other words, what we called Holy Communion, freed the people from the hypocrisy of the temple, provided an action that they all could take – even if they were separated from each other in different countries. It held their faith together. It held their people together.
Now I am going to say something that some people may not like and may not agree with. I don’t think you need a priest or a pastor to celebrate communion. I don’t think you need a church or an altar or a cross to celebrate communion. Communion should not be confined to the church. It is a living reminder that can give us courage anywhere two or three are gathered together.
That is what Jesus taught. You see than as now, the people of God are often separated. Jesus gave them something they could each do – even when they were separated – that would renew their faith. When they celebrated communion, they called up their faith that God would save them – and they recommitted themselves to living according to God’s laws, knowing they were not alone.
We recall the first days of the Passover, when each family put the blood of the lamb on their doors, knowing that they were taking an action, knowing that they were not alone. They were EXERCISING their faith that all of their people would act in the same way, in faith and solidarity, and that God would protect them all. And that is what Holy Communion should mean to us. When we take the bread and the wine, we should be praying that wickedness and deportations should “pass over our houses” and we should let ourselves FEEL that millions of us are praying the same communion – and let ourselves FEEL that God is with all of us no matter where we are.
We are putting more and more protections in place – not only in regards to deportations but to health care. What I am asking you today, what God is asking of you today in this season of Resurrection, is to help us build that movement OUTSIDE THE CHURCH. Of course I want you to be here on Sundays and on all the other days we have things going on. And of course I want you to help bring in new members so we can be stronger. But there is a crisis of organization in our movement that we must confront. To be strong, we must be organized – but our organizations must be honest and faithful. I don’t believe that is the case.
I believe that too many of the organizations around us are based on a few people making money – and they are dependent for their money on the very people we should be standing up against. I believe that our religious leaders are too often silent because they are compromised.
During the time of Jesus the temple and the organizations of the people were corrupt and compromised. Jesus confronted and exposed them. But he also gave people a way to organize themselves no matter where they were – in unity – even if separated.
What I am asking you to do today, is to begin the organization of “Little Churches”. What I want you to do is to invite your friends and neighbors to your house and form with them what we have together formed in this church.
What is the purpose of these ”little churches”? The purpose is to provide mutual protection, mutual support in your faith and family, and mutual commitment to struggle, to be a witness to justice and liberation.
Each week the little churches should practice the gifts of the resurrection: gifts such as prayer, reconciliation, communion and witness. That is why I want you to pay special attention to the scriptures and to the sermons in these next few weeks. Than in the next seven weeks, during the season of Pentecost, we will help you organize your groups.
Remember we had a vision of finding a way to organize the people like they did in Brazil, where they formed hundreds of thousands of these kind of faith groups, of small churches. That liberation theology movement led to the transformation of Brazil. I believe that if we put our mind and our hearts to it we can do it here.
I wouldn’t ask you to put in the time and effort to organize in this way if I wasn’t sure that there was a crisis in the way the movement and the churches are organized – and that the movement is being corrupted. In Mexico I heard the same cries from the real leaders: why won’t the churches, the organizations with big budgets, the elected officials – why won’t they join us in the movement to protect out people? And the answer is that these organizations had become corrupt and self-serving.
The lesson of the gift of communion is that our organizations must be decentralized but all following a common program, a common strategy, a common practice of protection and witness based on faith. As I was speaking in Mexico, I realized that some people were terribly frustrated. Why didn’t the process of government work? Why didn’t Barack Obama keep his promise? Why didn’t the President of Mexico do what the law they passed required?
I realized that we should not be frustrated. This is an election season. Nothing big in the way of change will happen. And then I remembered that Congressman Gutierrez had called for convocatorias in every city right after the November elections to begin organizing, to begin organizing to confront the President on the day of his inauguration in January. This time we won’t just wait and hope –we will hope and march!
The Bible teaches us that for everything under the sun there is a season. This is the season to begin to organize for mutual protection and witness based on faith. It is time to begin something new that will also bring new purpose to our lives, heal families and build communities. Every person we save from deportation; every life we save of someone that is excluded from healthcare; every family we unite or keep together is building the majority that we will soon be in this nation. God has planted you here for a reason. He has his hand on you. He will protect you. He will make you a people that will change this nation and change the Americas. Receive and share the bread and the cup today. It is the body and blood of Christ, the blood on your doors that protects you, the common faith that has been given to you to make you a great people, a light to the nations! Remember too the many who have walked in the footsteps of Jesus and whose blood has been shared in the cause. Their blood is mingled together with those who have been victims of wickedness, changing it from the blood of victims to the blood of witnesses to the Kingdom of God where they are protected for eternity.
Holy Scriptures for the Third Sunday
in the Season of the Resurrection
12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. 14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance.
Luke 24:13-27 On the Road to Emmaus
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” 25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.