Seeing the Sacred

From Psalm 139:1-18, 23-24 and Genesis 18:1-15

My heart has been especially heavy this week as I have seen pictures and read more and more about the humanitarian crisis the United States faces on the border with Mexico.  Part of me doesn’t even know what to say.  Desperate children—in record numbers—making their way alone or in groups—up the length of Mexico—primarily from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador—frantic to escape increasing violence in their home countries, to find family, to break out of devastating poverty and hunger and persecution.  They arrive at the door of our tent, and unfortunately face even more persecution and hardship and rejection. . . .
The Psalmist tells us so eloquently . . .
     O  Lord, you have searched me and known me. 

     You know when I sit down and when I rise up; 
     you discern my thoughts from far away. 

     You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. 
Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. 

     You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 

     Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;  it is so high that I cannot attain it.
     Where can I go from your spirit?  Or where can I flee from your presence?

We are assured that we are surrounded by God’s presence.  We are bordered and bound, encompassed and embraced by the Holy.  With every breath, we breathe in the Sacred.  We cannot escape God’s presence. 
Clivie has a book called Where Is God?  “God is the in the beginning . . . in the first red tomato.  God is in the end . . . in the last bite of birthday cake. . . . in the way people come together. . . .  God is in the world . . . in birdchirp, frogsong, and chattering squirrels, and in the fly caught in the spider’s web. . . .  God is everywhere we look.”
And Abraham . . . he looks up . . . sees 3 men . . . are they strangers?  Does he know them?  We don’t know.  But what we do know is that he sees the sacred in them.  It’s the heat of the day.  He knows these men must be tired.  Please let me give you water.  Please let me wash your feet.  Please come and rest here in this place.  Let me feed you.  Let me offer you refreshment.  Let me embody grace and hospitality for you.  This is the least I can do.  Because God is everywhere we look.  Because I see the Holy in you.
But what do we see when we see these children and families—desperately making their way toward us—and huddled in deportation camps?  

How do we make sense of this migration and this humanitarian crisis in light of our religious beliefs and theologies and principles of faith?

Humberto, a 16-year-old Zapotec indigenous child from the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico, recently attempted to cross into the U.S. through the Arizona desert with his uncle. Humberto's goal was to reunite with his mother, who had left when he was three years old, hoping to make enough money to send Humberto to school.

Humberto was raised by his grandmother and supported by the remittances his mother sent home from her agricultural work in California's Central Valley. When his grandmother died, Humberto was pressured more and more to join a local gang, but instead, he decided to make the perilous journey with his uncle.  After walking through the desert for three days, they were apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol, and Humberto was separated from his uncle without explanation.  Humberto was deported and placed into a shelter for unaccompanied youth in Nogales, Mexico—notorious for its gangs and violence.

Only after arriving at the shelter was Humberto allowed to contact his mother to let her know what had happened.  And only at that time did he learn that his uncle had been charged with “illegal re-entry,” and was sentenced to six months in a U.S. prison.

Where is God?  And where is our sense of Holy Hospitality? 

Border crossings and the root causes of migration affect and implicate all of us—and I’m not just talking about politics here.  I’m talking ethically, spiritually—on the most human level—what affects us as vulnerable human beings in fallible human relationship with other vulnerable human beings. 

Contrary to what some people in the current immigration debate might have you believe, people don’t leave their countries of origin to make someone else’s life in another country more difficult. . . .

Just like in Biblical times, people leave their homes today to avoid violent conflict, food insecurity, economic distress, political insecurity, demoralizing inequalities, environmental destruction, and natural disasters.  People leave their homes in search of safety and a better life.  The UN High Commission for Refugees estimates that there are at least 15.4 million refugees worldwide.  And that number is increasing. 

I mean, consider this:  In 2011, the gross national income per capita in the United States was $48,620.  In Mexico, the gross national income per capita was $9,420.  In Guatemala $2,870.  In Honduras $1,980.  Can you even vaguely imagine living on less than $2,000 per year?!  I can’t, even with the vast difference in the cost of living.  I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Honduras.  I know what $2,000 gets you. . . . 

So, people show up at the door of our tent in the heat of the day. . . . 
How will we respond?

We’ve been on the migrant journey with Abraham and Sarah for 3 weeks now.  And the same message from God keeps getting repeated—first in terms of Blessing, then as Covenant, now as Holy Hospitality.  The promise God makes isn’t new anymore.  It’s old news.  But we keep hearing it, even though it seems too difficult and ridiculous. . . .  Abraham and Sarah, you are going to have a son, and you will be the parents of a vast and beloved nation.  Your offspring will outnumber the stars. . . . 

Oh, yeah, right!  That’s not even possible anymore!  Sarah laughs with disbelief.

She knows she should believe it—that she should welcome this news and this calling with grace and hospitality.  But it feels too hard, impossible.  Out of her hands.  Beyond her control.  And likewise, we know that the Sacredness all around us calls us to welcome the stranger, to work to reduce the reasons that people need to leave their homes as refugees, to provide hospitality for those in need, to recognize the Holy in our midst.  We know this.  We know this needs to happen. . . .  But do we believe it is possible?  It feels so hard and problematic, and part of us just wants to laugh sarcastically.  Yeah, right!  Like that’s going to happen!  How would we even begin to address the inequalities that fuel such desperation?  It’s out of our hands.  Beyond our control.

Yet, is anything too wonderful for the Lord?  Where is our faith?  Our sense of wonder?  Our belief in grace and hope, creativity and possibility?  Where is our courage and sense of justice?

Rumi boldly reminds us
     This being human is a guest house. / Every morning a new arrival.
     A joy, a depression, a meanness, / some momentary awareness comes

     as an unexpected visitor. / Welcome and entertain them all!

     Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, / who violently sweep your house

     empty of its furniture, / still, treat each guest honorably.

     He may be clearing you out / for some new delight.
     The dark thought, the shame, the malice, / meet them at the door laughing
     and invite them in. / Be grateful for whatever comes,

     because each has been sent / as a guide from beyond.

Even in the midst of this humanitarian crisis—or maybe I should say especially in the midst of this humanitarian crisis—we are reminded that God is everywhere we look.  Abraham saw the Holy in the faces of the strangers who stood at the door of his tent.  We also have that opportunity.  The Holy is present in the places and people where we may least expect it.  So, let us embody grace and hospitality.  This is the least we can do.  Because I see the Holy in you.

God is in our midst—calling forth the best in us.  Calling us to do things we may never have thought possible.  But here we are.  Like Abraham and Sarah.  Beautiful.  Flawed.  Imperfect.  Amazing.  Passionate.  Uncertain.  Brilliant people.  We are your people, God.  We may not know exactly how to move forward in the face of the challenges, but we are willing to journey with you.

Let it be so.  Amen.


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