Refugee Sunday

Preaching God’s Truth in a time of “Alternative Facts”

Friends, many of you have heard me speak in person.  I preach and teach about refugees all over the country.  In fact, I have been preaching basically the same sermon for a year now:

In our Baptism, we are all Spiritual Refugees.  Earth is not our home.
We are citizens with the saints in heaven.  (Ephesians 2:19) 

But just in case you haven’t heard it yet, or if the events of the past week leave you confused, or you’d like a reminder of why I fight so hard to lift up GOD’S Word regardless of the weekly news, here is what I preached last Sunday, January 26:

 

I preached the sermon when we saw pictures of Syrian children dying.
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I preached the sermon when candidates used human suffering  as a campaign slogan.

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I preached the sermon when our country celebrated our own immigrant history.

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I preached the sermon when Christians worldwide celebrated Jesus’ refugee story:

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And, I preached it the day that my country arrested Veterans from the Iraqi war who used their legal travel visa to fly into America – steps from the statue of Liberty:

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Mr. Darweesh served the 101st US airborne in Iraq from 2003-2013.  For that service, ISIS has threatened his life, and the US government granted his family a legal refugee visa.  We promised to care for him, just as we care for our other veterans.  But then, when he arrived at the airport in New York City on Saturday January 25, he was arrested.  He was locked up for 18 hours with no access to his family or to his lawyer.  He was only released after a national outcry sparked a massive protest at the airport.  Even then, he is on the news saying, “I like this country.  Mr Trump is ok.  I am glad to be here.”

So, I preached again.  We are Americans, and thus we want our country to be safe.  That means we care for our soldiers and veterans, and their families, like Mr. Darweesh.

As God-followers, we are called to answer to God’s commandments:

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The Bible is clear:  We are to care for and welcome the stranger amongst us, even if it puts our own security at risk.  For we are citizens with the Saints in heaven.

I’ll keep preaching the refugee story.  Please keep sharing it in your own communities.

Whiplash: What just happened?

Brace for Impact

We knew November 9 that we were on a collision course.  Mr. Trump had promised to end immigration and refugee resettlement, and those promises got him elected.  Some of us braced for impact – and others were still in denial, or hoping for the best.  Just after the election, I wrote this post, warning about what could happen in Mr. Trump’s 100 days, and some people accused me of being disrespectful or unfair.

Maybe I was a little pessimistic.

A president is just a president.  He is not God, he is not a King, and the things that are most important – our salvation, our membership in God’s family, our faithful future – will not be changed by any president.  As I stated then, I re-state now:

No matter who is President, God is the King of Kings.
No human leader will ever be perfect, and every human leader has faults.

The God of the Universe became a refugee, out of love for you and for me.
The Bible is a story of immigrants and refugees, all loved by God.
Because we are part of God’s family, we are called to serve immigrants and refugees, too.

We have HOPE Beyond Borders, because God’s HOPE has no Borders

With God in charge, I will keep serving refugees and immigrants around the world.  But our current US president is going to make that more difficult here at home.

Yesterday, President Trump did what he promised to do:  end immigration and refugee resettlement as we currently know it in America.

  • Block all Syrian Refugees indefinitely
  • Stop all refugee resettlement for 4 months
  • Cap refugee resettlement at the lowest number we’ve ever seen
  • Block all immigrants from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen for at least 30 days
  • Ban all immigrants from countries that the state department finds “concerning” (1)
  • Build a wall on the US southern border (2)
  • Increase Deportations and detentions (3)
     
  • Declare “war” on US cities that treat immigrants humanely (4)

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When our earthly leaders are not meeting Godly standards, we need to hold them accountable.  It might be radical, or political, or shocking to stand up for God’s people.  But we are called to serve God, not kings.

“As Christians, we do not fear our new neighbors who have fled for their very lives –we embrace them. As people of faith, we are called to love and serve our neighbors–and as a result, our churches, our communities and our nation are stronger,”
– Linda Hartke, LIRS

So, what can you do?  Check out this great list from LIRS:
Donate, advocate, pray, volunteer, visit.
Serve God, no matter who is President.  Share HOPE beyond Borders.

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Extravaganza: “We are ALL Refugees”

This week, I am presenting a workshop entitled “We are ALL Refugees” at a conference for youth leaders.  This post is full of info for those who are new to this journey – and a great summary for those who’ve been following all year!  

Radical Hospitality

Today, as the United States was focusing on welcoming a new President into the White House, I am focused on welcoming new neighbors into my own neighborhood.  Since 1939, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service  has worked with the US government to welcome immigrants and refugees to our nation, and they will continue to do so this year and into the future.  I get to work with LIRS’ Michigan Partner, Samaritas, and my county’s newest helping organization, Washtenaw Refugee Welcome on a regular basis.  I also get to travel around the world and see how members of the Lutheran World Federation are helping 1.3 million of the world’s refugees.

Today, I share.

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I share with friends, and colleagues, and strangers, and fellow ministers about how we can make a difference, right here, right now, and how we can invest in positive differences for the future, and all over the world.
I do what I do because God has called me to serve refugees, and in order to serve I must first speak; I speak out for those who are silent, and I speak out to empower those who can also serve.

As Christians, we are called to share the Gospel in words and actions with everyone, including refugees and immigrants.
As Reformation Christians, we are empowered to participate with God’s ongoing action in the world, including amongst immigrants and refugees.
As Christian faith Leaders, we are teaching people of all ages how to use God’s truth to interpret the news, including the refugee and immigrant crises.  

If you haven’t attended one of my workshops, please watch my 15 minute summary of the workshop I lead, which summarizes refugee resettlement in the US and the Christian response:

So, since you’re interested, and now you know more, how can you make a difference?

  1. Study the Bible

The Bible is full of stories of displaced people, and commands to help them.  Check out this list of Biblical Refguees and this list of Bible verses about refugees.  Learn these stories yourself, but also ensure that your house of worship is including these topics as well.

2.  Pray

Pray for the refugees, for the end of war, for those who are helping, and for those who aren’t sure how to help.  Ask your church leaders to share this prayer for refugees during worship, and to include refugees on the prayer list every week.

3.  Learn More 

Read something from this great list of books about refugees .  Watch one of these short videos about the refugee crisis.  Get a group together to watch the movie After Spring, about the Syrian conflict.

4.  Tell Others

Share facts.  Share links.  Share stories.  Share compassion.  I deputize you all to be refugee advocates in your communities.  Sign up here for more updates, and mythbuster images to share in your networks.

5.  Donate and Volunteer 

Sign up with LIRS, your local refugee placement agency, your church, or another organization linked above.  If you want more ideas, I can help you find them!