The Word of God should intersect with the lives of God’s people, so they look around at what is happening in their community, think and act. The community then evaluates what they did so they could learn more. And then they celebrate.

Dear brothers and sisters, siblings in Christ,

In the news, we have seen disturbing reports and pictures of children being taken from their parents and placed in detention centers by our government. Their crime was fleeing their homeland due to violence and threats of death, to make a perilous journey over harsh geography to seek safety within our borders.

I remember another time a family crossed a border for similar reasons. When Jesus was born, Herod—who was in power—became threatened by the news of his birth since some were already calling Jesus “King of the Jews.” He sent the Wise Men to see the boy. Herod told them it was so that he could honor him, but he really wanted to know his whereabouts so he could kill him. The Wise Men, after laying their gifts before Jesus, were warned in a dream not to return to Herod and Jesus’ father Joseph was also warned in a dream to flee with his family. They became refugees in Egypt, where they stayed until it was safe to return home. When Herod learned that he had been outwitted, he ordered the murder of every boy in Bethlehem under the age of two.

This event is known as the “Slaughter of the Innocents.” Matthew describes the scene with a quote from the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” -Matthew 2:18

Can you hear Rachel weeping for her children?

The horror that is happening to children in our country was multiplied when government officials used scripture to justify these actions. We who follow Jesus know that God keeps widening the borders of who is in and who is out through Jesus’ life, teachings and ministry, Paul’s Emmaus road experience, and Peter’s vision. If the law is not rooted in the Love Ethic of Jesus, who keeps expanding our understanding of who is our brother and sister, it harms and invites death rather than reconciles and brings life.

Can you hear Rachel weeping for her children?

Scripture reminds us over and over again to welcome the stranger:

Exodus 23:9 — “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 19:34 — “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Deuteronomy 1:16 — “Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien.”

Deuteronomy 10:18-19 — “For the Lord your God…loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

Deuteronomy 24:17-18 — “You shall not deprive a resident alien…of justice.”

Matthew 25:31-46 — “For I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

Hebrews 13:2 — “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

Some of us learned a lesson about how to encounter the Bible when we traveled to Cuernavaca last fall. For the members of the base Christian community we visited, bible study is more than just reading and reflecting on God’s word. It requires action that is transformational. The Word of God should intersect with the lives of God’s people, so as they read the Bible, they look around at what is happening in their community, then think about what the scripture is compelling them to do. This is followed by action. The community then evaluates what they did so they could learn more. And then they celebrate.

May the cries of Rachel be heard in your sanctuary. As scripture is read and prayers offered, may you listen for what God is asking of you and your community. May you respond as faithful followers of Jesus, who calls us to create Beloved Community—that place of love, compassion, connection, and justice for all of God’s children.

Blessings,

Bishop Karen P. Oliveto

Read more statements from United Methodist leaders:

Faith leaders’ statement on family separation

A shocking violation of the spirit of the Gospel

Standing with Immigrant Children

United Methodists Pass Resolution to End Immigrant Family Separation at Annual Gathering

Read news from United Methodist News Service:

Church charges brought against Sessions

Sessions criticized for ‘zero tolerance’ Bible quote  

United Methodists fight separation of immigrant families

What you can do to help:

Immigrant family separation

Tell Jeff Sessions to care for immigrants!

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