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30 OT A ~ "Another Way" ~ Susan McGurgan, D.Min.


It is hard,

this week,

to read this passage from Exodus

against the grim backdrop

of violent images

and disturbing updates from Gaza and Israel.


It is hard to read this passage

knowing that 100 million people

in our world are displaced—

forced from their homes

because of

Financial ruin

Political oppression

Religious persecution

Starvation

Environmental disaster.


It is hard to read this passage

and know that modern footnotes might add,

“This year, there are 32.5 million

refugees in the world.”

Or,

“The UN estimates there are 153 million

orphans across the globe.”


Now,

the Bible doesn’t lay out economic strategies

or policy statements.

It doesn’t offer a blueprint

for social action,

and despite what some people

would like to believe,

Scripture doesn’t tell us how to vote

or which political party to support.


Scripture does tell us,

in no uncertain terms,

what we owe to God

and to each other.


We owe God our reverence and obedience.

We owe God our “first fruits”,

our sacrifices,

our offerings scooped generously

from the cream,

not scraped together from the dregs.

We owe God gratitude,

praise,

worship.

And as hard as these may be to live out,

what we owe to God

is the “easy” part.


Much harder

is what we owe to each other.


“The Bible is Clear”

is a phrase often used

to impose personal agendas

or to force “Biblical Beliefs”

or “Biblical Morality”

on people who don’t follow the Bible.

But the Bible is remarkably clear

for those who follow it.

Love your neighbor.

Welcome the stranger.

Serve the least.

Feed the hungry.

Forgive debts.

Show mercy.

Heal the wounded.

Create space for the other.

Make peace.

Care for the land.


For example,

the Bible is clear

that we owe justice to women.

Period.

Full stop.

Not grudging justice,

not quasi-justice,

not convenient justice,

not justice based on what men in power

are willing to concede—

but justice in God’s eyes

and on God’s terms.


This means,

a woman’s worth is not measured

by her usefulness

or by the square root

of how many men find her attractive

or share the same gene pool—

but by her absolute worth in God’s eyes.


Young,

old,

wealthy,

poor,

single,

daughter, wife, widow.

Scripture is clear.

Women are worthy of God’s justice.


The Bible is equally clear

that the most vulnerable among us—

those easily used or abused

by the strong,

those with no safety net—

children,

orphans,

widows,

the elderly,

the stranger,

the refugee,

the poor,

the wounded,

are to be protected and welcomed in.


Scripture tells us

time and again

that we must take special care

of people who might have

a hard path to walk.

Scripture teaches

that because God cares for sojourners

and aliens

and refugees,

we must care for them, too.


There’s no wiggle room in this,

no matter how carefully

we search for a loophole,

or an asterisk,

or a personal exemption.

We are accountable to God

and this accountability means

that our holiness

is more than personal piety.

It is deeper than sympathy,

more valuable than charity,

more effective than the nebulous desire

to “do good.”

Holiness is the wholehearted embrace of God’s vision,

even when that vision

leads us into unchartered territory.


This vision has significant,

and sometimes dangerous repercussions.

It dismantles power structures

and re-arranges hierarchies.

It overturns carefully laid plans.

It places those who exploit,

those who exclude,

those who circle the wagons,

those who profit from war

or grow rich from the world’s misery,

on notice.

This vision requires that we engage in

difficult conversations

about immigration,

about protecting borders

about international diplomacy,

about violence and hatred

about the economics of poverty and war.


This vision means

that we begin to see Biblical hospitality

as something beyond coffee and donuts

after the 10:30 mass--

that we see Biblical hospitality

as the ongoing work

of creating space at the table

for the outsider.


Embracing this vision

doesn’t make us progressives,

or socialists,

or bleeding-heart liberals.


It makes us Christians.


Because here’s the thing.

We are—all of us—

migrants, aliens, sojourners.

We are—all of us—

wounded,

hurting,

and at times, weak.

It doesn’t matter that some of us

are skilled at spackling over scars.

It doesn’t matter that some of us

can point to generations

dwelling on a particular plot of land.

The truth is,

as Christians,

regardless of our official immigration status

or legal standing,

we are sojourners.

We may be “citizens” of the land we occupy

but we are also migrants

journeying to a new place—

a place yet to be—

a place with a distinct set

of values and behaviors,

and a very different definition of residency.


“You were once aliens yourselves

in the land of Egypt.”


As Christians,

no matter how strong and secure

we may appear,

no matter how long and distinguished our pedigree—

we cannot heal ourselves;

we cannot save ourselves.

We cannot enter the Promised Land alone.

We are aliens,

immigrants,

wanderers who must rely on God’s mercy.

When we find the courage

to reach out to others,

we will mirror and multiply that same mercy.


This is a hard passage to read,

especially this week,

when the world sounds like it is cracking open,

when hatred appears to hold the upper hand

when peace feels far away.


It is a hard passage to read,

and a harder passage to live.

But it is a timely reminder

that for us,

and for the world,

there is another way.



"Mass exodus" by Doc Kazi is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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