An invitation to MM Readers in the Triangle
youthIf you hvae any interest at all in liturgical art, sacred space, or craftmanship that seeks to glorify God, please consider coming this weekend! Click here for details and an email to RSVP.

Cost:
Free to those who preregister!!

Lunch and Childcare:
Please RSVP your need for childcare and/or lunch on Saturday.
Christian Conversations
Jesus: the illegal alien
A Sermon
April 9, 2008
Dear friends,

Sermon "buzz" has been going on all week! Below is Pastor Edgardo's sermon, preached at Reconciliation on April 6, 2008. There have been so many requests for copies, I asked him to translate the original manuscript into English. The result is below. The texts were I Peter 1:17-23 and Luke 24:13-35 (Emmaus story). Some have called it a "white knuckle" sermon - one with a lot of toe stepping truth and difficult challenge. I commend it to your reading and further discussion.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Kevin 

"Seeing and Recognizing"
Sermón para el tercer domingo de pascuas 2008
Edgardo Colón-Emeric

Seeing and recognizing are not the same thing.  Some years ago, a friend of mine baptized a Hispanic family.  As you know, Methodists usually baptize people inside the church building.  But on this occasion they gathered by the river.  The family, dressed in white, entered the water and the pastor dunked them three times in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  After they came out of the water, the pastor handed them their baptismal certificates and they all returned to the church for a party.  What none of them knew was that everything that had happened by the banks of that river had been seen by two men.  On the following day, these two men arrived at the pastor's office to ask him a question: Do you "fix" papers?  These two men had thought that the baptismal certificate was a Green Card, an immigration document.  The two men had seen what had happened by the river but did not recognize.  Seeing and recognizing are not the same thing.

The stories that we read in the Church during the Easter season give us several examples of people who see but do not recognize.  Consider Mary Magdalene.  Mary Magdalene knew Jesus.  She knew his power; the power that had cleansed her from seven demons.  She knew his voice; the voice that spoke to her saying: your sins are forgiven.  She even knew his feet; the feet which she had washed with her tears.  Mary Magdalene knew Jesus, but when she saw him by the side of that empty tomb, she did not recognize Jesus.  The disciples in today's gospel reading know Jesus.  They know he was from Nazareth.  They know that he was a prophet might in word and deed.  They know how he died.  They have heard rumors of his rising.  They know Jesus, but when they see Jesus on the road to Emmaus, they do not recognize Jesus.  Seeing and recognizing are not the same thing.

In the stories of the apparitions of the risen Christ, Jesus plays hide and seek with his disciples.  The separation of seeing from recognizing has a pedagogical purpose.  After the resurrection it is no longer possible to know Jesus from a human point of view.  The forty days of Easter apparitions pose a very important question for us.  The question is not: Do you know Jesus?  But, do you recognize Jesus?  It does you no good to know Jesus, if you do not recognize him when he appears before you.

On the way to Emmaus, Jesus teaches his disciples to recognize him under different figures.  He teaches them to recognize him in the word.  All things written in the Bible are about Jesus.  All?  Even Leviticus and Isaiah?  All.  He teaches them to recognize him in the breaking of the bread.  Let me say this.  The pulpit and the table go together.  Worship without communion is incomplete worship.  He teaches them to recognize him in the neighbor.  It is no mere coincidence that those two sad disciples see Jesus as a stranger.

I read to you Luke 24:18 again, "Are you the only "paroikos" in Jerusalem who does not know what has happened here in these days?  The key word is the Greek word "paroikos".  This extremely important term is usually translated as foreigner.  Abraham lived in the promised land as a "paroikos".  Moses lived in Midian as a "paroikos".  Israel's time in Egypt was a time of "paroikia".  The "paroikos" is not a tourist.  The "paroikos" is a stranger, a refugee, a migrant, an alien.  The time of "paroikia" is not a vacation.  It is a time of suffering, a time of exile.  This important word appears again in Peter's first letter where he exhorts Christians to "live in reverent fear during the time of their "paroikia" (1 Peter 1:17).

In this world, Jesus is a "paroikos", a migrant, an alien.  Why?  Because he is a son of Abraham.  His people are a pilgrim people, a dispersed people, a persecuted people.  They are persecuted because they speak differently, because they eat differently, because they pray differently.

In this world, Jesus is a "paroikos", a migrant, an alien.  Why?  Because he is a son of Adam.  Adam and Eve were deported from the garden of Eden because they had accumulated a bad record of sins.  Now all their children live alienated from their natural state.

In this world, Jesus is a "paroikos", a migrant, an alien.  Why?  Because Jesus is in this world, but he is not of this world.  Even though the world was made through him, he is not from here.  Jesus came from above, and he lives his life longing for the hour when he can return to his Father.

In this world, Jesus is a "paroikos", a migrant, an alien, and undocumented.  Jesus did not have a valid birth certificate.  Mother's name: Mary; Father's name: unknown.  In fact, Jesus had no papers in his name, no title deed, no rental contract.  Nothing.  "Foxes have dens, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head."

In this world, Jesus is a "paroikos", a migrant, an alien, an undocumented, an illegal.  Jesus died for illegals.  He died to offer amnesty to a mass of sinners.  Jesus died among illegals.  He was crucified between two criminals by the hands of many criminals.  Jesus died like an illegal.  He died outside the gate, accursed under the law.

In this world, Jesus is a "paroikos", a migrant, an alien, an undocumented, an illegal, and therefore we need to learn to recognize him when we see the illegal alien.  Yes, we need to recognize Jesus in the preaching of the word, but not only here.  We need to recognize Jesus in the celebration of communion, but not only there.  We need to recognize Jesus in the encounter with the neighbor, especially the illegal neighbor. 

Christians who do not recognize Jesus in the illegal do not know Jesus.  This is the lesson of Emmaus, but there is another one.  Christians who do not recognize Jesus in the illegal do not know themselves.  This is the lesson of 1Peter.

In his letter, Peter exhorts Christians to "live in reverent fear during the time of your "paroikia"".  In this world, the Christian has no true homeland.  In this world, the history of Christianity is the history of a long, long exile.  In this world, Christians live outside of themselves, in the world but not of the world.  In this world to be a Christian is to be a "paroikos", a migrant, an alien, an undocumented, an illegal.  Peter's message is this: Christians are illegal but they are not criminal.

To those of you are who are undocumented I say this: do not become used to lying.  Many use fake papers.  Many falsify their identities.  May it not be so with you.  Live in an honest manner.  Do not abuse the system that abuses you.  Repay its evil with good.  In this world, Jesus was illegal but without sin.

To those of you who are documented I say this: do not despise the word amnesty.  In today's society, there are many who treat the word amnesty as a bad word.  Many reject any display of mercy toward the undocumented as something unjust.  May it not be so with you.  Remember the words of the Lord's Prayer:  "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us".  Do not demand justice without mercy, for with the same measure with which you judge, you shall be judged.  Do not become angry with the undocumented person next to you because Jesus is not ashamed to call him brother, sister.

To both of you I say this: "live in reverent fear during the time of your "paroikia"", the time of being illegal.  Do not fear those who have the power to take away your job and deport you to Mexico.  Fear the one who has the power to take away your life and deport you to hell.  Do not be afraid that the Hispanic population is growing too much too quickly and that you can no longer recognize your country.  Rather, live in reverent fear so that it does not come to pass that when the judge of the living and the dead comes he sees you but does not recognize you.

Seeing and recognizing are not the same thing.  It does me no good to know Jesus, if I do not recognize him when I encounter him.  It does me no good to recognize Jesus, if I recognize Jesus when I encounter him, but he does not recognize me.  It seems to me that too many times those of who know Jesus are more foolish and slower of heart to recognize him than those who do not know him.  Perhaps our eyes are closed because we are asleep, or perhaps our eyes are closed because we are pretending to be asleep.

So perhaps those two men who saw that baptism recognized more of what was happening than the ones getting baptized.  I imagine those men leaving the pastor's office with their eyes open and their heart burning.  I imagine one of them saying to the other: Truly, crossing the Rio Grande is nothing next to crossing the waters of baptism.  What really matters is not whether one is a wetback but whether one is a wet-head, a head wet in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  I imagine his companion replying: I learned a little bit of Greek in Mexico (why not?).  The word parish comes from the Greek word "paroikia".  That means that, in this world, parochial life is illegal life.  I imagine both of these men leaving that church as witnesses of something that we know but do not always recognize: this world is not the only world.

The Church is not a colony of resident aliens.  No.  The Church is a van full of illegals crossing the border to travel to the true north, up, the kingdom of God, because as Paul says, "our citizenship is in heaven".

In this crossing, this exodus, there are barriers.  There are sins that give away our illegality.  There are minutemen patrolling the border.  There are deserts full of all sorts of venomous creatures.  There are mountains, walls, radars, checkpoints.  Everything says, no trespassing.  Everything says, go back.  Everything says, danger.  But thanks be to God, there is someone who says: follow me.  Thanks be to God, there is someone who says: fear not, I have conquered the world.  Thanks be to God, there is someone who knows all the back roads and ways because he himself is the way.  That someone is Jesus, my brother, the van driver, our good coyote.  I hope you know him.  Even more, I hope you recognize him.  I hope he recognizes you.