by Rev. Dale Azevedo, Sr. Minister          –          December 1, 2018

“Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt.” (Matthew 2:13-14)

Jesus was a migrant. Like many of the thousands presently standing at our southern border, Jesus, along with his mother and father, traveled a great distance fleeing his homeland due to political upheaval and threats of violence. The three of them walked hundreds of miles seeking safety and sanctuary, a place to be a family, where they could live without fear of being killed. And it was God who commanded them to do so. They journeyed without permission or documentation. They settled in a faraway land and potentially stayed there for years. Only when the political climate had changed sufficiently in Israel did they returned to home.

I know that it is difficult to compare an ancient family of three fleeing to Egypt with a caravan of 5000 waiting outside our borders, but to the individual families seeking refuge, there is no difference. And to God, I’m not sure there is much of a difference either. God is the God of migrants. God was a migrant in the person of Jesus. God led the Israelites, on more than one occasion, through mass migration. And God continually commands the chosen, to welcome the migrants in their midst and support them as they would support one other.

A group of 5000 foreigners can be a scary thing for many.  But to God, they are not foreigners, they are children of God, and should be loved, respected, and treated as such. This is Biblical.

The fear, as I understand it, is that allowing too many immigrants into our country will undermine our economy, destroy our culture, and increase the threat of violence. The reality, as I see it, is that segments of our economy rely heavily on migrant labor, our culture is already wildly diverse, and violence is a daily occurrence. It unlikely that these migrants, or any immigrants will have significant impact on these items. They are already in flux in a rapidly changing world. Add to this God’s call to welcome the immigrant, and it is clear that we must find a respectful, humanitarian, and dignified way of treating those who seek to share in the prosperity and opportunities we enjoy. We are all people and all worthy of the chance to live in peace and to prove ourselves valuable citizens.

Additionally, even if we decide we cannot welcome them, they still MUST be treated with dignity and respect. Tear gas is not acceptable. Separating families is not acceptable. Housing in prisons (regardless of what we call them) is not acceptable. It is not us vs them. It is not even us AND them. As Brendan said in his recent sermon, “It is only us.” We are all people, God’s children. At least, that is the way God would have it if we would only listen.

If you care to get involved and want to make a difference in the lives of the migrants at our boarder, there are a few ways to do it. Our denomination, the UCC, has a few opportunities to help out by writing letters to government officials, or making a donation to help our denominational agencies be present. Another group, that I have recently come across, is Sanctuary Caravan. Sanctuary Caravan is a newly formed organization hoping to meet the migrant caravan with a US caravan of faith leaders and compassionate individuals who will “witness their movement…accompany them into the U.S….[and] assist those seeking entry with their demands to enter the US without losing their liberty.” Training seminars for those wishing to be a part of the compassionate caravan are being held regionally and online.

Of course, prayers are always welcome. Take time to read about the migrants, where they come from, what they are facing back home, why they are seeking entry into the U.S., and what we are doing about it. Pray for the families and for our leaders, that the difficult decisions they need to make can be made in faith and with compassion. And remember, “You, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19)