I've gotten to hear two sermons recently. This Sunday and last. That's novel for me, considering I haven't listened to a sermon in many months.
Our friend, Holly, took us to her church during our trip to Boston: Old Cambridge Baptist Church.
And I just watched the live stream of the Medina United Church of Christ, Congregational.
Both sermons referenced the horrific picture of the immigrants who died on the shore of the Rio Grande.
I could be wrong, but I felt like I heard a yearning from both ministers. "Could we? Should we be doing more?"
Reverend Cody Sanders of Old Cambridge Baptist Church straight up asked the congregation what they should be doing more to help.
And Reverend Luke Lindon ended his sermon today by saying, "Yes we are a church of hypocrites. And there is always room for more."
These humanitarian crises must weigh heavily on the hearts of ministers everywhere. I'm quite sure both of these ministers got into this work because of a calling to help humanity.
As I listened to them I feel like I can hear them asking, "Why am I here? Why am I not on the ground with the great tragedies of our time?"
As a person who has been given the great gift of helping "on the ground" I wanted to share my experiences as it relates to doing this work.
I am incredibly thankful for the Rio Grande drowning picture. It has the potential of changing the entire narrative in the United States as to how we think about the people at our borders. I'm not going to show it simply because it is distressing. You can Google it if you want.
Humanity is often a culture where we dole out compassion and kindness towards other humans like stingy gods. Only certain people deserve our kindness while the rest deserve any cruelty and torture that may happen to befall them.
Immigrants are currently receiving our cruel judgement right now. We are not allowed to help them.
The homeless are in the same boat. We are also not allowed to help them either.
The mantra of governments and why we shouldn't help the homeless is "public safety."
Literally, a public official, Jeff Fusco, said it 3 times in referencing why I am doing homeless services wrong:
In the same article the mayor said, "We have enough available options to be able to house people.
Yet mysteriously I receive endless calls, emails and messages on Facebook of people begging me for tents.
The connection between immigrants and homeless people is poverty. Society isn't interested in either group because they don't have any money.
If the end results of these politicians weren't so cruel and tragic to the poorest of the poor, it would be comical. They all chant the same catch phrases in hopes of rationalizing to the public why they don't want to help these poor people.
Poor people are a drain on society. No government official wants more poor people. They want less poor people. Its simple economics.
Money is all that matters. And the death and torture and total disregard of men, women and children that did nothing wrong other than have the bad luck of being born in the wrong place is the end result. The ends justify the means when it comes to culling the poor.
But they can't sell the truth: "We don't want any more poor people."
So, they talk about things like safety and rules and laws.
As long as they can touch a judgmental nerve in their public then they'll go right along with the cruelty. You can always count on humanity's desire to create in groups and out groups. That's why it's so easy to bomb the middle east. Who cares about those people, anyway.
I set this entire stage to get back to my point: I get why you ministers want to help.
Government and it's doppelganger, business, are terrible moral leaders. They both just do whatever will make the most money for their friends and family. Ministers are the only leaders left that still even think about human morality. I suspect you want to take that moral leadership to the front lines of the great spiritual wars of our time.
But you are needed in your church, too.
In both church services I heard of great suffering just in the congregation. (They both had the time during the service where the congregation could pray for those in need.) Recent deaths. Cancer. Heart attacks. Injuries. It went on and on.
I think great ministers want to go to the big battlefields where immense energy is needed of love and compassion. But I see churches as a place where that is needed just as much.
Suffering is the great human connector. So many of us experience incredible suffering even if we happen to be wealthy and born in the right place.
I guess my message is this: Don't feel bad for just being the pillar of love and compassion for your congregation. If all you ever do is help a few people move through their lives with some peace and love that is a magnificent service to humanity. The picture of the father and daughter having drowned on the shore of the Rio Grande is Jesus dying on the cross. It is a reminder of great suffering which leads to great love. Love the ones you're with.
Old people come to you because they are afraid and probably feel alone. They are a wonderful cause no matter where they fall on the economic spectrum. They need you.
The amount of suffering and tragedy happening right this moment on planet Earth is incomprehensible. Yes, the immigrants on our boarder are sexy right now and we are being particularly cruel to them. But I promise you there is a child in your town right now that is sleeping in a car, that is hungry and is scared. You could easily spend all your time and resources just helping the severely in need within a 5 mile radius from where you stand right this minute.
You are good. You are kind. You are the spirit of God incarnate. We are lucky to have you where you stand right now.