For some 2,000 years, Christ followers have been formed by a story or rather a collection of stories, poems, letters and writings. And in recent days it has become very clear that we have forgotten what’s at the core of these sacred texts we call Scripture.
Two stories in particular stand at the center.
The first is found in our Hebrew scriptures and it’s the story of the Hebrew or Israelite people. Descendents of Abraham and his elderly wife, Sarah, are chosen to live out God’s intentions for all of creation. And for a season, they are held captive.
They are forced to live as slaves to an Egyptian empire until the day that Yahweh rescues them from slavery. As part of their liberation, they journey through the desert for 40 years, searching for home and learning a new way of life. They are rescued in order to bless other nations.
And one of the ways they are to bless is by welcoming and caring for and sharing with the stranger, the traveler and the foreigner in their midst. See, the Hebrew people must never forget that they too were once strangers in a foreign land, that they too were in need, that they too were hungry and thirsty. When they forget, there are always consequences.
The other story that is instrumental to our Christian identity also involves a journey — this one is about God’s journey to be with us. God could have come to us in a million different ways. He could have come in the form of a wealthy politician or a warrior king. The gospel stories of our Christian scriptures tell us instead that God chose to come to us through the fragility of birth and in the body of a helpless child. Jesus came as a vulnerable servant, a compassionate healer and teacher — one who ultimately died a criminal’s death.
God chose to be revealed in Jesus and he warned his followers to be on the lookout because he would still be coming to us in this same way. He knew we would forget. So, he warned: ‘Truly I tell you, just as you do it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you do it to me.’
These are not just stories meant to guide the Christian church. They are stories about what it means to be human — they are stories that warn us against forgetting what’s at the heart of our humanity.
When we forget who we are and where we come from and what we were created for, we are standing on dangerous ground. Friends, we are at that point.
The practices of separating families at our borders and of criminalizing those seeking refuge here are evidence of our forgetfulness. The pathetic number of refugees we are willing to accept into this country is proof of our lack of memory. And we must remember. We must remember that we have a responsibility to care for the stranger and to provide safety for the sojourner. We must remember that we are measured not by how much wealth we accrue, but how we treat the outsider and the vulnerable.
Our liberation, our healing, our future are dependent on our willingness to remember and on our daring as Jesus did to stand in solidarity with those who are suffering.
— By Susan Rogers is pastor of The Well at Springfield in Jacksonville, Fla.