Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Saying Unpopular Things at Church

Jeremiah 7: 1 - 15

I first named this post "Getting Stoned for a Sermon" because that's what happened to Jeremiah, but then I realized that anyone who wasn't reading Jeremiah would think that I was making some kind of drug reference and would then be wildly disappointed to just find a Sunday School lesson. This week Jeremiah minces no words in telling the people that their church attendance and worship is a farce. He says that their religion means nothing if it doesn't translate into taking care of widows, orphans, and foreigners in their midst.  He set himself against the religious establishment by calling the temple a "den of thieves." Jesus used the quote when he later did the same thing. The people said to Jeremiah, "You shall die!" then they said to each other, "This man deserves the sentence of death." That must've been some sermon. Cooler heads prevailed when they remembered that prophets had a habit of pronouncing doom and after all, he was called by God. They did eventually stone him, but not in Chapter 7.

That part about "foreigners in their midst" or "aliens among them" kept coming back to me because right here in the Bible belt, Alabama just passed the toughest immigration law in American history and it's been in the news almost daily. It's now against the law to give a ride to an illegal immigrant. If you see someone who is hurt and want to take her to a hospital, check her papers first. You know, like the Good Samaritan did. And our public schools which are already operating on a shoestring are now required to verify immigration status even though federal law prevents us from denying a public education to any child. Just what we need, pointless paperwork when we don't have money to teach music, art, or driver's education. So, shouldn't we bring this up at church?

I remember being resentful of international students when I was in graduate school over 20 years ago. Students who wanted to come to America would work as teaching assistants for smaller stipends and I felt like there would be more money available for American students if those dern foreigners would stay home. They were smart and willing to study long hours, too. The feeling was easy to maintain toward a group, but as soon as I met students who were willing to sacrifice everything to come to the United States and work for a better life for their children, it was hard to fault them. I would do anything to provide a way to a fulfilling life for my children. I don't deserve the blessings of my country; I just had some dumb luck in citizenship. And of course, the Native Americans have a better case against the first immigrants than we have today against Mexicans. It's all a matter of perspective. Which brings me back to Jeremiah and Jesus. We can give up our claim to be followers of God or we can adjust our behavior to conform to biblical teaching. I don't imagine Jeremiah or Jesus would be any more popular today than they were back then if they showed up this Sunday and said that if we can be happy about this anti-immigration law then we're wasting our time going to church.

1 comment:

  1. I would really like to send this to the Anniston Star to go in their Speak-Out because I can't think of a more "spot on" message than what you just posted. I especially loved the reference to the Good Samaritan and the entire point Jesus was making in regard to how we are to treat others. I will add to the discussion that took place in SS (as if I didn't add enough already) in regard to the claim by our Governor when he mentioned how many jobs would be saved for us "true" Alabamians. The ONLY way that will EVER happen is if he goes after the employers who actively recruit immigrants so that they can pay sub-minimum wages and offer absolutely ZERO benefits!!! This goes WAY beyond our so called "problem" with those foreigners taking our jobs. Way beyond.