May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, oh Lord, our rock and our redeemer.
This week moral outcry rang out across religious, social, and political lines as the news sank in: since May, the current administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration enforcement policy resulted in the separation of at least 2,342 children from their migrant parents at the US-Mexico border.
Placed in chain-link cages in detention centers, these children, many of whom are under the age of twelve, were placed in what are being called “tender age shelters,” or baby jails. Outrage and protest ranged from pediatricians, religious leaders, employees, former and current First Ladies, and leaders of all political persuasions.
Former First Lady Laura Bush publicly condemned the policy in a Washington Post article, likening the separation of children from their parents to the internment of Japanese-American children during World War II. On Tuesday, Michelle Obama re-tweeted Mrs. Bush’s article and said, “Sometimes truth transcends party.” Melania Trump, in her own and effective way, helped to turn the heart of her husband, the President, to end this death-dealing policy.
When ProPublica released a leaked audio clip of children crying out for their parents in a detention center, something deep within the American soul broke. When the images of children in detention centers went public, the veil between “us and them” was torn. The cries of these children shook this nation awake.
The trauma reverberated across the country. The visceral reaction was palpable. Even with President Trump’s recent Executive Order ending the practice, we are left with the aftermath of the storm. And we have a great deal of cleanup work.
We are left with where to place these 2,342 children. We are left with the challenge of reuniting them with their families. We are left with how to ensure they receive proper legal representation. Children and parents are left with the irreparable damage of separation. We are left to grapple with whether or not we really want to be a nation that creates temporary internment camps for families waiting to be processed and deported. We are left to wrestle with the tensions between law and compassion, between our identity as Americans and our identity as Christians.
We are left with the moral question: How did we allow this to happen? How lost is our nation’s soul that we allowed this to happen? How did we allow children to be separated from their parents in the name of national security? In a nation full of Christians, where was our moral compass?
We are not so different from the disciples who got in the boat with Jesus. Like these disciples, we were following Jesus per usual, when seemingly out of nowhere, a great windstorm arose. We, like the disciples (who were fishermen, after all), have weathered our share of storms. We have seen our way through trying personal, societal, and global times. But like the disciples, we cannot remember a storm quite like this. Of all the storms that we lived to tell the tale about, something is different about this one.
Harrowing winds have knocked us off course. We thought we knew the direction we were headed as a people in this United States of America. Waves that we have not seen in a hundred years rage against this ship. Like the disciples, who have lived through a lot of storms as fishermen, many of us have begun to wonder, how will we get through this one?
We have cried out, “Lord, are you asleep? Do you see what is going on? Your children are perishing! The soul of this nation is perishing!” We have ripped the social fabric that we once aspired to honor. The storm has gotten out of control. The water is rising and our nation is swamped. Calm this storm, LORD!
And Jesus, who was asleep in the stern of the boat, heard the cry of his followers and woke up. He came to them and looked at them like they had finally woken up. Jesus, who had been with them through the entire storm, woke up, came to them, and rebuked the storm.
Jesus rebuked that storm, which the disciples did not know if they could weather. He rebuked that storm, which clouded their vision. He rebuked the very thing that terrified and threatened to destroy these creatures of God.
In his rebuke of the storm, Jesus showed the disciples that he is Lord over all creation. Jesus showed that he is Lord over the storm, over the sea, and over all. Just like in the whirlwind, when the Lord spoke to Job, and said, “Where were you when I created everything,” Jesus reminded the disciples of his lordship. And he reminds us that in the end, Jesus is Lord over Republicans and Democrats, children and adults, documented and undocumented people, this United States of American and all of its laws therein.
As Lord, Jesus rebuked the storm that threatened to destroy his creation, and said: “PEACE, BE STILL!” And just as Jesus rebuked the storm, as his followers, we are invited to do the same. We are invited to rebuke this storm and say to it: “Peace, be still.”
In our baptismal covenant we promise to “renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.” We promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being”.
As Christians living in this country, during this time, we are called to live into our baptismal promises by rebuking this storm, this evil. Separating children from their parents is evil. We must renounce it.
To rebuke this storm, to renounce this evil, we can contact our representatives. We can join the march in Philadelphia on June 30th, demanding family reunification and compassionate immigration reform.
To rebuke this storm, we can ask hard questions about our own complicity. Are we complicit? And if the answer is “yes,” we may need to be like the one hundred Microsoft employees who wrote an open letter protesting the use of their software by ICE that, at the time, helped facilitate the separation of children from their parents. Or like American Airlines and Delta who refused to relocate these children from detention centers across the country to new detention centers.
To rebuke the storm we may need to turn inward and confront in real and honest ways, what if anything within us needs to be rooted out. What tilled the soil that allowed this to happen in our nation? Have we made partisan politics an idol? Do we take sides according to our loyalties to partisan politics over and above our first and final loyalty to Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all creation, who is the way, the truth, and the life?
To rebuke the storm we will need to see immigrants as God does, beloved children of God, before solutions of immigration reform are ever discussed.
As Christians, we have a moral obligation to rebuke this storm and to commit to the cleanup efforts that lie ahead.
We can make our prayer our action and our action our prayer. We can demand family reunification and restorative justice. We can be part of our nation’s work in repentance and reconciliation. We can be ready and willing to be part of restorative efforts for these families in the days, months, and even years to come. We can use our resources and our imaginations to figure out ways to show them that they are not alone.
As Christians, we are part of Christ’s body. As St. Paul put it, we are part of a many-membered body. Christ’s many-membered body transcends borders. Christ’s bdoy can be found here at St. Thomas’ Church in Philadelphia, as well as across the world. Those children that are locked up are part of Christ’s body. They belong to God, and as members of this same body, they are our children in the Lord.
As a nation, full of Christians, how are we going to make this right?
In the wake of this storm, how is Jesus calling you to respond in thought, word, and deed? May we answer this call. Amen.