Christ Lutheran Community Church

Upper Darby

August 18, 2019 Worship Sermon - "God for Refugees"

Delivered by Rev. Stephen Keiser


Jeremiah 23:23-29, Psalm 82, Hebrews 11:29--12:2, Luke 12:49-56

In preparing for this sermon, I went looking for an old folk song that I once heard years ago.  I wasn’t able to find it, so you are spared the pain of listening to me try to sing it for you.  But I thought the song would be very appropriate for this morning’s readings, because the title of the song was, “Jesus is not nice.”  The musician who sang it was not anti-Christian or anti-Jesus.  He was actually a man of faith.  But he was against this kind of cotton candy, sugar coated, precious moments image of Jesus that we Christians sometimes communicate to the rest of the world.  Instead of describing a savior whose love leads him to challenge the forces of evil and injustice in our world, we sometimes make Jesus out to be this big teddy bear that would never have a harsh word for anyone.

In the passage we just read from the Gospel of Luke, we are catching Jesus in one of those “not nice” moments.  Even though we sometimes refer to Jesus as the “Prince of Peace,” here we have Jesus saying, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.”   Peace is important and we all want peace, but justice is also important and a peace that whitewashes over injustice is no peace.  The God revealed to us in scripture, the God proclaimed by Jesus, is a God who is willing to break the peace in order to bring about justice for those who have been beaten down by the powers of this world.

Those of us who seek to follow Christ will sometimes be called to take positions that bring us into conflict with these worldly powers.  Cynthia described for us some of the actions taken by the Lutheran Church in America at its national assembly last week and one of the actions that got the most publicity was that the Lutheran Church declared itself a sanctuary church.  Now contrary to what the people on Fox News have said, becoming a sanctuary church does not mean that the Lutheran Church is encouraging congregations to break the law (although the Bible is clear that if we have to choose between following human laws and following the law of God, we must follow God… This week, our country is remembering the four hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved people from Africa and we thank God for those Christians who were willing to break the law in order to rescue people from the evil of slavery.)   Becoming a sanctuary church does not mean that Lutheran congregations are encouraged to break the law; but it does mean that Lutheran congregations are encouraged to follow what scripture teaches about welcoming the stranger.  Becoming a sanctuary church does mean that Lutheran congregations are encouraged to use our resources to assist the most vulnerable migrants who are feeling the sharp edges of a broken immigration system, (as bishop Kevin Strickland has put it).

The American immigration system was broken long before it became a political wedge issue used to solidify a political base.  The American immigration system has been broken for decades because we have been hypocritical around the issue of immigration.  We want immigrants: they slaughter our chickens, they pick our fruit, they mow our lawns.  Their tax dollars keep our social security solvent.  We want immigrants, but racism and xenophobia have prevented us from creating an efficient process by which immigrants can come here legally and work and contribute to our society.  So instead of having an efficient and compassionate process of immigration, people who come to this nation looking for asylum are often treated like prisoners.  They’re held in detention in sometimes inhumane conditions.  Being a sanctuary church means we Lutherans are called to speak out against this hypocrisy.  We are called to vote for political leaders who have the courage to enact laws that offer hospitality to refugees, because that’s what the Bible tells us to do. 

In our opening prayer this morning, we asked for courage to take our stand with all victims of bloodshed and greed.  Taking our stand with victims of bloodshed and greed may lead us into conflict with those who have a stake in keeping things the way they are.  But what gives us this courage is knowing that the God we worship is a God who stands with the same victims we are called to stand with.  From the story of God freeing the slaves in Egypt to the stories of Jesus freeing people from demonic power, the God revealed to us in scripture is a liberating God, a God who fights for the oppressed.  Each one of us has experienced God’s liberating power at one point or another in our lives.  So may we follow God’s call to liberate others.

Christ Lutheran Community Church