This Thursday’s guest is Michael Mulberry, Senior Pastor of First Congregational Church, UCC in Billings, Montana, USA. One service is from the past — the Sanctuary Sunday in which the church made its commitment to a radical welcome of immigrants and refugees. The next two openings of worship are in advance of the next two weeks, one a Recovenanting Sunday and the other a Rally Day, a time of celebrating the youngest members of the community of faith.
SANCTUARY RISING LITURGY
One: At the back of the sanctuary are resource sheets you might use to continue in this struggle. We invite you to take them as you feel so led. After the service, we will have a laptop ready and available to sign the sanctuary pledge you have in your bulletin. We invite you to do that as you feel so led. May we remember who we are in the midst of fear and hatred. May we remember our story.
REMEMBERING OUR STORY Leviticus 19:33-34
Reader 1:‘When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LIVING GOD, your God.
Rev. Dr. Joan Maruskin is the National Program Director at Church World Service’s Religious Program. She refers to the Bible as the ultimate immigration handbook.Scripture is replete with faith ancestors who are immigrants and refugees Listen more closely to Psalm 23. It is the prayer of a refugee who seeks Sabbath and greener pastures Finding hospitality in a city of refuge, the person can now dine in front of their enemies.
So to abandon refugees and immigrants is to abandon our Biblical tradition. It is to abandon:
One: God moving or migrating over the face of chaos
Two: A wandering Aramean as our ancestor
Three: Adam and Eve exiled from the garden
Four: Cain becoming a wanderer on the earth after killing his brother Abel.
Five: Natural disaster moves Noah and his family from their home.They become refugees. His
descendants migrate over the earth after the flood.
Five:Wars throughout Scripture. Reminder that wars create displaced folk and refugees.
Six: Abraham and Sarah. Hagar is exiled into the wilderness with the promise that her son
Ishmael will be the beginning of a great nation.
Seven: Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah and Rachel
Eight:Joseph follows the trade routes. Remember that the story comes full circle when Jacob’s
sons become refugees and must migrate to find food because of a famine in the land.
Nine: Moses, the first wetback An unaccompanied, alien child is found in the river and raised
in Pharaoh’s palace. If found today, Moses would be placed in a juvenile detention facility.
Ten:The Exodus –God migrates with the people and stays in a tent. Provides them with food and
water in the wilderness. Protects them and finds safe haven for them.
Eleven: Ruth and Naomi move back and forth because of famine in the land. Ruth, the alien in
the land, is the model of compassion in the story and ancestor of David.
Twelve:King David emigrating to avoid being killed.
Thirteen:The Exile to Babylon.
Fourteen:The Return from Babylon.
Fifteen: Joseph and Mary and the Babe
Anne Weems, reminds us of the sheer terror Jesus and his family must have experienced as an immigrant, her poem, Kneeling in Bethlehem (a portion of the poem)
“Into the wild and painful cold of the starless winter night came the refugees, slowly making
their way to the border. . . .
. . .One man he could handle . . ..two, even . . ., but a border patrol . . . they wouldn’t have
She’d hardly had time to recover from childbirth
When word had come that they were hunted,
And they fled with only a little bread,
The remaining wine,
And a very small portion of cheese.
Suddenly, the child began to make small noises.
The man drew his breath in sharply;
The woman quietly put the child to breast.
Fear . . . long dread-filled moments . . . .
Huddled, the family stood still in the long silence.
At last the man breathed deeply again,
Reassured they had not been heard.
And into the night continued.
Mary and Joseph and the Babe.”
PRAYER OF COMMITMENT (written by Loren McGrail, used by permission)
One: Creator of the Universe, you have created us in your likeness. We are all made from one blood.
All: Tonight we commit ourselves to welcome the stranger in our midst—
Not only because we were once strangers
But because we are kin.
One: Caring and Just One, you invite us to offer hospitality because that is where we find you;
All: Where we can find ourselves entertaining angels.
One: Mother of Mercy, you have asked us to open our hearts to this reality—
All: To read the landscape of our fear,
The terrain of other peoples’ sorrow,
And turn our borders into bridges of compassion.
One: We commit
All:To seeing the full humanity in others,
That their divine gifts be revealed to us.
One: May we have the wisdom and courage
All: To stand against any rule, any law,
any system or structure which robs people of their respect and dignity.
One: May we work together
All: To acknowledge the single garment we are
And piece together the Beloved Community.
One: Strengthen us to affirm your likeness
All: In the stranger
And acknowledge the stranger as our neighbor. Amen.
CLOSING HYMN (Suggestion) Won’t You Let Me Be Your Servant
(Changing the word “Servant” in richard Gillard’s lyrics to “Neighbor”)
COMMISSIONING Mark 4:30-32
Jesus continued, “What’s a good image for God’s kingdom? What parable can I use to explain it? Consider a mustard seed. When scattered on the ground, it’s the smallest of all the seeds on the earth; but when it’s planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all vegetable plants. It produces such large branches that the birds in the sky are able to nest in its shade.”
One:Jesus says that the Empire of God is akin to that of a mustard seed—in ancient Rome, the equivalent of a weed that overturns the field and brings forward a new reality, God’s reality of justice and mercy.
Two: Mustard takes over the field or the garden from below with its persistence, its resilience, and the way that it spreads.
One: We are reminded by all those who work to make our world green that weeds are weeds, plants are plants, flowers are flowers because we name them so. Are those dandelions that will grow in your spring lawn interlopers in the monoculturally, controlled green . . .or irrepressible, persistent, growing from below, sunbursts of color? Are they weeds or sources for nutrition, wellness, and wine?
One: Are people “illegal” or “terrorists” because we name them so? Are people “strangers” because we name them so?
One: Today we have small bags of mustard seeds for you to take out into the empire. Go forth into the world’s field and infest it with God’s justice and mercy.
Two:Be weeds. Know that God has made you not slaves or strangers but friends and neighbors.
Two: Be weeds. Amen.
Conclusion of Service
At the back of the sanctuary are laptops where you can take the Sanctuary Pledge.That pledge reads in part:
RESOURCE: Sanctuary Movement in the Trump Era
New Strategy and Tactics in the Post-election Reality
As people of faith and people of conscience, we pledge to resist the newly elected Administration’s policy proposals to target and deport millions of undocumented immigrants, and discriminate against marginalized communities. We will open up our congregations and communities as sanctuary spaces for those targeted by hate, and work alongside our friends, families and neighbors to ensure the dignity and human rights of all people.
*RESPONSIVE AFFIRMATION (adapted from Ruby Sales, Civil Rights legend)
One: You are not disposable. You are an essential player in our society.
And you are called to love everyone.
You are called to find meaning in something other than whiteness, domination, privilege, and hate.
All: For our faith, based on nonviolence, is not based on retaliation.
It is a faith predicated on right relations and love.
One: We cannot control the world. But we can control ourselves.
And nobody is going to coerce us into hating.
All: This is revolutionary and profound.
Even in power or enslaved, we will not hate.
One: God is with us,
Even when we are not with ourselves.
All: We will build God’s Beloved Community.
One: We will transform a world where too often, Toni Morrison writes, “Out there, they don’t love our children.”
All: This can be no more.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
We recognize that our religious tradition has been hijacked, taken over by a promise of victory and ascendant power. We are tempted. We are lured by this gospel. Our hands are wrapped tightly around the scepter of what we hope is a gentle and kind King. But, Mother of Our Hearts, you tell us this is not your throne. Instead we find you piecing together the universe, on your knees tending to the garden. Through a slow quilting and a long-standing nurture and nourishment, you engage us in conversation. Teach us this way. Help our imaginations to mind the way you tend to the world differently. In so doing, transform the way we join hands with you and bend toward the earth. Amen.
*RESPONSIVE AFFIRMATION (adapted from Ruby Sales, Civil Rights legend)
One: How do we let young people know that we love them?
How do young people show their love for older people?
All: We now live in a world where community does not exist as it once existed,
Where all over the world we have fragmentation.
One: In the United States, we now have gentrification,
We have the devastation of public spaces that once unified people together in relationship to one another.
All: The role of public theology in the 21st Century is a redefinition of community
And our relationship to one another.
One: This is a challenge. But it is also a very exciting moment in theology.
We can expand our understanding. We expand the reality of a global Beloved Community.
All: There is a hunger for cross-generational relationship.
There is a hunger young people have to be claimed, to be part of a trans-generational, an intergenerational experience . . .
One: There is a hunger for young people to know people,
Because without knowing another generation they feel incomplete.
All: Elders feel incomplete without knowing young people.
We are incomplete without knowing each other.
One: One of the great trigger fingers of empires is to destroy intimacy,
To destroy how we know each other.
All: We must constantly struggle to maintain intimacy.
One: Our public theology must have hindsight, insight, and foresight.
That is complete sight.
All: It’s not an “I” sight. It is a “we” sight.
We will not lose meaning.
For our lives are not based on whiteness, power, and domination.
* Krista Tippett, “Where does it hurt?: Conversation with Ruby Sales,” OnBeing, September 15, 2016. found here