There is a balm in Gilead, to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead, to heal the sin sick soul.
On this Sunday we gather for healing, in hope of a time when equality, and justice “roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” We gather in the midst of a month of exuberant celebrations of Pride and joy. We gather in defiance of darkening clouds of cruelty and injustice which spread out from our nation’s capital and threaten to darken our world. We gather to build community, for we who are many become one people when we share one cup and one bread. And we gather because “There is a balm in Gilead.”
We gather to reclaim the promise of Christian belief in the Kingdom of God, a time when justice and peace infuse our lives, our hearts and our minds. We gather to reclaim the inherent equality of all God’s people as reflected in the words – and actions – of the Messiah.
And we gather to rescue Jesus from an ungodly crew of evangelicals who misuse Christian scripture to justify inhuman acts against children and their families.
As you know, the current occupant of the White House has started separating parents from children of families who come to America seeking asylum from violence and oppression in other nations. Some media reports in the past week suggest this policy is designed to force Democrats in Congress to pay for the infamous ‘TrumpWall’ between Mexico and the U.S. If so, this is a new low for the most corrupt and morally corrosive regime in Washington since the founding of our nation.
Even if this is not so – and it is difficult to imagine any other reason for this barbaric act of cruelty – the administration’s new policy of jailing children in concentration camps is an outrage which cannot be allowed to stand; which cannot be allowed to continue; which we cannot stand silently by and watch the body count rise. We must resist now more than ever.
Since starting this barbarous behavior, the government has ripped almost 2,000 children away from their parents. Some of the guards have cruelly told parents they will never see their children again. One reportedly ripped a baby away from their mother while they were nursing. Not since the atrocities of the Second World War has a government acted with such calculated and callous disregard for families, women, and children. We must resist now more than ever.
At first, children taken from their parents were caged – and I mean that literally – in an abandoned Wal Mart store. Now the administration has created a camp to “concentrate” these children – yes in their own words a concentration camp – comprised of a tent city in a part of Texas where the temperature routinely reach triple digits. We must resist now more than ever.
To top off the week, the man who serves as our Attorney General misused words written by St. Paul to claim his unchristian policy is based in Biblical text: “[l]et every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.” We must resist now more than ever.
This quotation, pulled out of context and read in isolation, has been used to justify a long line of evil acts. Segregationists defending Jim Crow laws segregating people by race used it in the South. Their Southern ancestors used it to defend their particle of enslaving black people. Many of their European forefathers rebelled against this quotation when it was used to justify the divine right or hereditary kings to rule with absolute power. America was founded on the belief that power comes from the people and those elected to rule our nation do so within a system of checks and balances, a system which has never before failed our people.
As Episcopalians, we do not pull little bits of scripture out of context and use them as ‘proof texts’ to try and win an argument. Why? Well, if you read the rest of Romans 13 – that’s not too much to ask, is it? If you read the rest of Romans 13 you will see St. Paul writes: “Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”
And further on we are called to “lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.” This is why we don’t use the Bible as a source of proof texts: for every quote you find to support one view, there are many others that oppose that very same view.
And I think that is on purpose, for God wants us to have to wrestle with scripture; to have to struggle and think and pray about scripture; to have to work at this. For God is too complex a woman to be easily or fully understood.
As Christians, we are called to oppose politicians who try to kidnap Jesus and misuse him as a poster boy for cruelty, oppression, and injustice. We are called to resist now more than ever. We are called to help God heal this fractured world.
So what can we do to stand up against the unspeakable horror of splitting up families at the border? In this month of Pride, let us remember that undocumented adults are at risk in Trump’s America; that undocumented children are even more at risk; and LGBTQ undocumented children are most at risk. And there is something we can do to help them right here in San Francisco. Right now. Starting today.
LYRIC’s is a non-profit group in our city working to help “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQQ) youth, their families, and allies of all races, classes, genders, and abilities.” Working with the City of San Francisco, they have created a program called UndocuWorkforce, the Bay Area’s first paid leadership program for LGBTQQ and straight ally youth ages 24 and under. Our city has given funds to launch the UndocuWorkforc program. But there are two problems.
First, with the current administration in power, paying undocumented LGBTQQ youth through Lyric puts a deportation target on their backs. If someone earns more than $600 a year from a single employer, than that employer is required by federal law to report that income to the federal government. But this problem goes away if, for example, each week the youth are paid by a different organization.
The money would come from Lyric to each organization- say a church or non-profit – and that origination writes a check of up to $500 for each participant in the Lyric program. All we need to do is sign up enough groups to cover all the participants. And it doesn’t cost these organizations a penny: they are simply recycling Lyric’s money. So that’s one way St. Cyprian’s could act this year to oppose the Trump reign of terror against undocumented children and their families.
The second problem is that Lyric can only use funds from the City of San Francisco to help city residents. But this problem can be reduced if funds are raised to pay for undocumented LGBTQQ youth from Oakland or the Peninsula or Marin. Oasis California, the LGBTQ ministry of our diocese, is planning to help raise funds to expand the reach of Lyric’s program. Bay Area Episcopal Churches and their members will be asked to raise at least $8,625 to add one undocumented youth to the program.
Some churches can contribute more than others. Some Bay Area Episcopalians can contribute more than others. What’s important is that this gives each of us, and every Episcopal Church in the Bay Area, a path to direct action to help undocumented LGBTQQ survive. We must resist now more than ever.
This is one way we can serve as Gilead, where we in this hilltop church can be a place of healing balm than heals the soul made sick by injustice and oppression. This is one way we can be a mustard seed that grows into a great tree, offering shelter and protection to those most in danger. This is one way we can make real through action our calling to be a community of healing and amazing grace.
Let us pray,
to you belong the mysteries of the universe.
You transform shepherds into kings,
the smallest seeds into magnificent trees,
and hardened hearts into loving ones.
Bless us with your life-giving Spirit,
re-create us in your image,
and shape us to your purposes,
through Jesus Christ. May the church say: Amen.
 Amos 5:24
 Romans 13:1
 Romans 13:10
 Romans 13:12