Getting To The Heart Of The Migrant Situation – A Sermon On John 14:23-29

The Sixth Sunday of Easter – John 14:23-29

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

I hope you will hold on to those words. Let them take root in you. Let them be the basis from which you speak and act. Let them be the ears with which you listen. What I am about to say to you is grounded in those words. 

Every week as I begin thinking about the upcoming sermon I take a look at my life, your lives, our community, country, and world to see how the gospel might intersect with what is happening. How might the gospel guide us? What is it calling for and asking of us? What challenge, comfort, hope, or encouragement is it bringing us? How might we embody and live the gospel in the context of what is happening? 

Most weeks a sermon can go in a number of different directions. But some weeks something happens, a situation arises, and the decision is made for me. I cannot not preach about that situation. To not preach about that situation would be a betrayal of Jesus, you, and my priesthood. This is one of those weeks and the situation is this: the Border Patrol releasing migrants in Uvalde. It has many people, residents, city officials, law enforcement, and migrants, feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and powerless. 

Some hearts are troubled and afraid. Some are angry. Some are skeptical and cynical. Some are breaking with compassion and some are hardening. That’s not a judgment about anyone. It’s simply a recognition of what’s happening and our need for the peace of Jesus. We need his peace within us and between us. 

I wish I could tell you that Jesus’ peace will fix this situation and make everything better. I can’t. I don’t think that’s what Jesus’ peace does. His peace is not necessarily the absence or cessation of conflict, the resolution of our problems, or unanimity and agreement. His peace is more about what’s going within us than what is going on around us.

I think we all want a solution to this situation. For most of us though a solution to conflict or a difficult situation usually means that someone else needs to change what she or he says, does, or believes. Jesus’ peace is not about changing someone else but about changing us. We have no power to change anyone’s heart but our own. Ours is the only heart we can change. I wonder if we are willing to let Jesus’ peace change our hearts.

A heart at peace sees the other as a human being even in the midst of conflict and disagreement. When my heart is at peace the hopes, fears, concerns, and needs of others are as real to me as my own. When my heart is at war, however, the other is an object, issue, obstacle, or irrelevancy to me. (The Abinger Institute, The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2008), 30.)

Will we live with our hearts at peace or at war? That’s the question each one of us must answer, and we do. Every day we answer that question and our answer to that question determines our way of being toward others. How do we want to be toward the other, whether that other is a migrant, a Border Patrol agent, a democrat, a republican, or our president? We can continue arguing with one another about who is right or wrong and what is the right or wrong thing to do “but the deepest way in which we are right or wrong is in our way of being toward others” (Ibid. 57).

That’s why the vestry made a decision for St. Philip’s to get involved in this situation. That’s why we are providing backpacks with hygiene kits, snacks, and water to each of the migrants. That’s why we are providing a weekly appreciation meal to the Border Patrol. That’s why so many people within and outside this parish have donated money, time, and supplies. We want to be right in our way of being towards others. We want to live with a heart at peace. And that’s not always easy. It means we might have to make difficult changes in our thinking, attitudes, speaking, and actions. 

I don’t have the answer to this situation. I don’t know when, how, or if it will get fixed but I know this. Before the people being released were migrants, immigrants, illegals, or any of the other names with which they have been labelled; before any of that they were, are, and always will be human beings created by and in the image and likeness of the same God who created you and me. And the same is true for the Border Patrol. Before these men and women were Border Patrol agents, employees of the federal government, or any of the other names with which they have been labelled; before any of that they were, are, and always will be human beings created by and in the image and likeness of the same God who created you and me. 

None are immune from or escaping the tragedy of this situation. All are in need. So let’s make a stand and choose a side. Let’s choose to be right in our way of being toward others. Let’s choose to stand on the side of humanity. Isn’t that the call of the gospel? Isn’t that where Jesus stands?

Over and over again Jesus chose to be right in his way of being toward others. He stood with and reached out to those in need.

  • He called the apostles to “come away” and “rest for a while” because “they had no leisure even to eat” (Mk. 6:30-32).
  • He had compassion on and fed the five thousand when the disciples wanted to send them away to find food for themselves somewhere else (Mt. 14:13-21);
  • He identified himself with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned, and said that what we do or do not do for them is what we do or do not do for him (Mt. 25:31-46).  
  • He chose to touch those the law declared to be untouchable (Lk. 5:12-13).
  • He let his heart and mind be changed about the extent of his ministry and mission by a Syrophoenician woman, a foreigner, an outsider, someone he had called a dog (Mk. 7:24-29). 

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

This peace that Jesus gives is a call for us to be peace to others, to bring our peace into the midst of chaos and conflict, to live with a heart at peace and be right in our way of being toward others. 

What might that look like for you today? Where and with whom is your heart at peace and where and with whom is it at war? What would you need to do or change in order to be right in your way of being toward others; toward the migrants, the Border Patrol, republicans, democrats, President Trump? 

Jesus has given us his peace. What will we do with it now?

4 thoughts on “Getting To The Heart Of The Migrant Situation – A Sermon On John 14:23-29

  1. This is my favorite Gospel. I feel the need of it constantly. I put my hands out, hoping for the great gift of peace to land in me, when we get to this part of the mass “My peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world gives, do I give it to you. Now let us give each other a sign of Christ’s peace.” I need to let go of the anger, and the helplessness, and just be in peace. I know that if I can be at peace, in peace, my actions will be better. Not because of me, but because of God’s peace and love and justice being able to abide with me, and be shared through me. Thank you for this lovely reflection!

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  2. Beautiful thought provoking words as always
    Why , o why , can’t i ever hear a priest give a sermon like this in my parish church ?
    It has to be with living at a deeper level of consciousness and not on the surface . Many many thanks

    Like

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