This is another in a series of posts exploring the wisdom Jewish and Christian scripture and tradition offer as we strive to faithfully respond to immigration issues. This is an excerpt from Rev. Lucinda Duncan’s sermon, “Taking Jesus Seriously,” preached at Follen Church Society in Lexington, MA on December 19, 2010- Ed.
In the Gospels, Jesus says:
Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.
A more accurate translation would have said, Blessed are the destitute…
What is this all about? Was as Jesus saying that God actually blessed the destitute, the beggars? Was Jesus simply a romantic charismatic liberalwho thought everyone could be taken in and fed?
The reality is that Jesus was saying that God blessed the destitute, the beggars, because they were the poor who had then hit hard times. After struggling to eke out a basic minimum living, they were crushed by debt, disease, or drought and could no longer make a living. They needed to beg on the streets to gather enough coins to put some food into the mouths of their children. Now let me just say: We know these people. In modern times these are the people who, in desperation, pay a year’s wage to a mafia coyote for the opportunity to risk life and limb to be transported illegally into the United States. Once here these are the people who are hired by major corporations to pick crops for substandard wages, to pluck chickens for fast food chains, or to wait around in groups on empty city corners to see if someone might drive by to offer them a single day’s wage.
Do you get what I’m talking about here? Yes, it’s our immigration issue, and it’s not going away. Yes, I’m saying that the people Jesus would call blessed by God are these very people, the undocumented immigrants carted into the United States by crime rings who care not a whit for the life or safety of any of their recruits and who are now the cause for such a ruckus in states like Arizona who believes every undocumented immigrant is a criminal trespasser.
If we are to take the words and the actions of Jesus seriously, we need to look at and listen to the needs of the poor, the undocumented, and the impoverished in this nation. We have the resources to do this. We used to have the heart. Could listening to what Jesus had to say, and how he lived his life, help us to realize hope and dignity must be supported somewhere, by someone or some people? Does listening to the words and looking at the life of Jesus change any of your minds about our immigration issues, about the minor actions — like the DREAM Act – that could possibly affect some of those in the right age group to win legal approval from the land in which they were raised? Can we bring ourselves to see what is morally relevant about Jesus’ philosophy and work together to provide hope and dignity to those who are settling this land? How seriously do we want to take Jesus?