You know how it is when you preach. You try to get a jump on next Sunday by studying the texts, observing the ethos around you, lurking in coffee shops to overhear illustrations, and praying for the prompting of the Spirit. Just when you think the sermon is done, something shifts, and we scramble to expand our lectionary reflection to include current guidance on how to live in our time.
Around the nation on Saturday evening perceptive pastors were doing re-writes in light of the executive order by the president that reduces the number of refugees, bans persons from certain countries, and makes deportation a real threat to others. The singling out of Muslims, in particular, is egregious, and justice-oriented Christian pastors want religious liberty protection for all.
It appears that the recent executive actions are an attempt to move the United States away from being the religiously free country that the founders created toward becoming an aggressively Christian nation hostile to other religions. That the executive order was loosed on Holocaust Remembrance Day defies comprehension.
From what I am hearing from preachers, fire in the bones is returning. The weight of this sacred task, proclaiming the Word, takes on new gravitas and urgency. Much like the challenge in the early Roman Empire, Christians knew that being a good citizen of the empire put them at odds with their confession that Jesus is Lord. Embracing the “America First” agenda and the shunning of those desperate to come to our shores violate the clear biblical mandate to welcome strangers and provide needed hospitality.
Congregations are places of welcome for refugees, and we often are on the frontline of resettlement assistance. Functioning as a place of sanctuary is now under threat, and we must strongly resist government interference in the practice of our faith.
Over the weekend, I met with religious leaders associated with the American Jewish Committee and the Shalom Hartman Institute, a leading educational resource for Jews in both Israel and North America. Christians and Muslims profit greatly from the scholarship and conversations convened by these two bodies.
For nearly five years I have participated in the Christian Leadership Initiative, which fosters greater understanding between Christians and Jews. Together we study texts, share perspectives on the relationship of US Christians and Jews to the state of Israel, and practice respect for the lived religion of others.
Amidst the current political turmoil, our conversations took on an added resolve. We spoke about colliding interests of varied groups and pondered how to build coalitions, recognizing that these will always be uneasy alliances, but necessary means of social transformation.
Prophetic preaching, teaching, and action can resist the evil unleashed in our nation. This will require stubborn persistence, courage, and a wellspring of hope.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares creative leaders to stand for justice.