Bible Parallels and Our Response
Most of you have heard by now that our offering from Christmas on Clairemont for Ukraine (as of this writing) has exceeded $31,000 and is drawing close to $32,000. More continues to come in. This is truly remarkable. Especially in light of the Joint Session of Congress just before Christmas with the president of Ukraine addressing both houses and the American people. The focus for our Christmas on Clairemont offering could not have come at a more meaningful time. Thanks to all of you for your support of this great relationship with Pastor Andrei and Vinnytsia Grace Baptist Church.
We can barely imagine the hardships the people of Grace Church are facing. And as Pastor Andrei reminds us, they are the fortunate ones. So many in Ukraine are suffering even worse hardships on the battlefields and in obliterated urban cores of cities that have been under attack for weeks and months. And still, there appears no end in sight. While we can be thankful for the incredible response our partnership has yielded, let us not grow weary of doing what we can. In the meantime, recall in the Christmas story a similar plight.
King Herod and the Slaughter of the Innocents (Matthew 2:1-23)
The second chapter of Matthew describes a horror visited upon innocent people. The actions unleashed there (by an ancient version of Putin named Herod) forced Jesus and his family to flee for their lives. According to Matthew, Jesus’ first memories as a young child would have been as a refugee.
Imagine Joseph, Mary and Jesus as a Family of Refugees
From these passages (we will read them for Epiphany on January 8), his family would have been at the mercy of strangers in a foreign land. His father would have struggled to find work, worried about his family, wrestled with his self-esteem, blamed a system he couldn’t control and searched in desperation for a way to return to what he knew.
The Tragedies of Today
Echoes of today’s tragedies reverberate from these passages. Not only in Ukraine, but also along our southern border, in our cities and across our world, the cruel dynamics of Jesus’ earliest days reveal the hard, ongoing realities of our continuing human condition. Usually from no fault of their own, people not so different from us struggle for survival in harsh circumstances, in unfamiliar territory and often with seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
The Responses of Faithful People
And yet, this early Gospel story in Matthew leads us deeper in and farther up: deeper in faith; farther up in our imaginations. Without details, we can imagine this holy family’s return. We envision resiliency in the face of sadness, understanding emerging from despondency and a courage constituted from the miseries of fear. Moving farther along the gospel story, we discover action plans and faithful responses from the followers of Jesus that can make a difference in similar circumstances.
Ministry to the hurting, the refugees, those without homes, the weary and battle worn emerge as clear pathways for earnest disciples.
The Bible’s Roadmap: Heal the Wound AND Address the Source of the Pain
We also discover the valuable call to address the source of conflict, too. Speaking truth to power, while daunting, remains crucial to our Christian service. The history of our country pulsates from the loud voices and vital actions of concerned Christians. Whether condemning slavery or supporting enslaved people; denouncing child labor or ministering to the children; addressing unfair labor practices or supporting the struggling families; standing against racism or sharing life with the victims of racism; calling out anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes and actions while living with and loving our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers, the Bible generates a both/and strategy for our Christian discipleship for everyday living.
As we conclude this year, we can be glad for significant victories. We can be thankful for the incredible generosity of so many for so much. And as we begin 2023, we can do so with anticipation and excitement. We have so much more God hopes for us. We have so much we can and must do. I’m so thankful I share this sacred journey with you.
With much love. great gratitude, and high expectations,