March 25, 2019
Rev. Jocelyn B. Gardner Spencer is the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Woodstock. She is a Racial Justice Ministry facilitator, a member of the CTUCC Board of Directors, and Moderator of the new Together As One Conference of the UCC in Southern New England.
“But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.”
As I write, news is breaking of 29 Latin American parents who have traveled thousands of miles to the U.S.-Mexico border. All of them have made this journey at least once before, when they fled terrifying violence and desperate poverty in their home countries and brought their families north to seek refuge. They crossed into the U.S. and were detained, and while in custody, they were separated from their children. These parents, along with hundreds of others, then were deported without their children, and they have returned now to seek asylum and a chance at reunification. As one father said, “Without my daughter, I'm dead inside.”
This week’s reading from Luke tells the story of another father who is separated from his child, though in this case it is a separation of the child’s own choosing. When he catches a glimpse of his prodigal son trudging homeward, filthy and stinking of pig slop, the elderly father sets aside all dignity, hikes up his robes, and hightails it down the road to embrace his lost child.
In the realm of God, no expense is too extravagant, no price is too high, to search out a lost child and bring them home. It doesn’t matter how they got there—by waywardness or by ignorance or by accident or by choice. No matter who is lost or why, in the realm of God, no expense is spared to search them out and carry them to safety.
This is what it means to be followers of Jesus. It means that we are responsible for one another, responsible to keep one another safe, to protect and care for one another whenever a child of God is in need. This is how God’s people respond: by mobilizing every conceivable resource to find those lost children, to keep them safe, and to bring them home.
Not by taking children from their parents and locking them in cages.
Not by forcing toddlers—children the age of my son, who doesn’t know what a country is, let alone which one he comes from or why he might have left it—to represent themselves in immigration courts.
Not by requiring parents to consent to deportation, to be returned to the violence or poverty or abuse or hunger or desperation they fled in search of sanctuary, in order to have their children returned to them.
This is what it means to be followers of Jesus: that when a child—any child—is in trouble, when a human being—any human being—is in trouble, when any part of this God-so-loved world is in trouble, we go there, we search them out, we bind their wounds, we bring them home. It may cost us our resources. It may cost us our privilege. It may cost us our pride. It may cost us our jobs. It may cost us our lives. But in the realm of God, we do it willingly. We do it joyfully. Because that is how God first loves us.
Holy One, thank you for seeking me out when I am in need, when I am in trouble, when I am lost, when I am afraid, when I am far from home. Don’t give up on me now, and help me not to give up on any of your children. Amen.
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First Church in Middletown, UCC
South Congregational Church, UCC
First United Church of Christ
Wildermere Beach Congregational UCC
Woodmont United Church of Christ
This Week in History:
Mar. 28, 1979, (40 years ago) A pressure valve at The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant fails to close, leading to a cooling water leak and heating of the core. It was later determined that the accident was a result of human error when signals from the reactor were misinterpreted. Though the core never reached melt down temperatures and radiation leaks were considered non-life threatening, 2 days later a precaution warning by Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh led to a panic in which more than 100,000 residents fled the area.
Starting With Scripture: March 25, 2019 , by Jocelyn Gardner Spencer.