Sunday, November 8, 2015
“Problem or Praise?”
Dear Broad Street Family,
Psalm 127, our scripture lesson for Sunday, states, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.” This short passage gives witness to the tension which always exists between our desires to serve God faithfully, our belief that somehow success for these efforts is up to us, and our need to remember that God must always lead. How many times do we have to remind ourselves that we best served by being faithful followers?
Could our struggle with anxiety, self-esteem, fear, etc., lie within our constant need to remember our “place” in the scheme of all things holy? In 1987 Dolores Mission Church declared itself a sanctuary church for the undocumented after the Immigration Reform Act passed in 1986. Soon after that declaration, recently arrived undocumented men from Mexico and Central America would sleep each night at the church (the Guadalupe Homeless Project) and the women and children, in the convent (Casa Miguel Pro).
Lots of media attention followed, with reporters swarming the place. And as often happens, attention brought with it opposition. Gregory Boyle, leader of the ministry and founder of the Homeboy Institute, would dread getting the messages off the parish answering machine. There were always a handful of hate messages and even a few vague death threats.
On one morning, when reaching the church, he was startled by the spray painted letters on the front steps. They read: “Wetback Church.” Shock settled in and he began to think about how much easier life is when you stay out of things that bring out spray cans.
When he arrived at the meeting of his women’s group and shared the gift of the spray can, he mentioned that he’d have the Homeboys clean it up later. A normally quiet member of the group spoke up and said, “You will not clean that up. If there are people of our community who are disparaged and hated and left out because they are wetbacks…then we shall be proud to call ourselves the wetback church.”
That small group became Christ by anchoring themselves to the ones now identified as the outcasts. The simple truth: their ministry would not have been nearly so powerful if they had seen themselves in ministry to the immigrant community as it was when they saw themselves in ministry with them. Boyle said, “The strategy of Jesus is not centered in taking the right stand on issues, but rather in standing in the right place—with the outcast and those relegated to the margins.” It was in understanding their “place” that their fear and anxiety would be freed for them to serve with grace and real strength. There efforts would not be in vain.
Just wish I was better at remembering my place.