The following homily was offered on June 23 as part of an action to “Stop Jailing Families” which called on Nashville Mayor Briley and Sheriff Hall to untangle their relationship with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and stop detaining immigrants, separating families, and operating internment camps. The action ended by delivering these demands to the Sheriff’s office.
Hola amigos y amigas!
Greetings, friends and neighbors, sisters and brothers, hermanas y hermanos!!
I speak to you today as a faith leader in Nashville, Tennessee.
I greet you in the name of the Creator who fashioned all Humanity as one family, one people, one expression of the image of God in each and everyone of us, God who made every person on the Earth, may blessings and mercy be upon you.
I greet you in the name of Mary who took her baby Jesus and fled with Joseph from one dangerous empire to another, seeking asylum and safety for her family.
I greet you in the name of Joseph who heard the angel of the Lord saying in a dream: get up and take Mary your beloved and Jesus your child to Egypt… to escape King Herod and his empire of death and destruction, Joseph who got up that very night and departed with his family to another country.
I greet you in the name of Jesus who was born in a strange town under the roof of strangers and who fled as a child for his safety, and who migrated throughout his life from country to country, town to town, and place to place, not as an enemy or as a criminal but as a child of love, as a teacher on a mission of love, as one seeking to embody and share the love of God with everyone he met.
This one Jesus while he was yet a child and not quite an adult, became separated from his parents as they traveled from Jerusalem home to Nazareth. And his parents each thought he was safe with the other, but he was in fact with neither of them. This child, Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem. He was separated from his parents and his parents became alarmed because he was not safely among relatives or the friends.
Mary and Joseph returned anxiously along the road seeking their son, Jesus with all their hearts and all their energies. And when they found him he was sitting in the temple, the religious center of his day and his people, asking questions and listening to the elders.
The boy Jesus answered: “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be doing God’s business?”
But in that moment they did not understand what Jesus was saying
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Today, and in this moment, both Mary’s question and Jesus’s question give us guidance for our action here in Nashville, action to change the policies of locking families up.
Mary asked: “Why have you treated us like this?” (Say it with me.)
And we can ask with her:
on the behalf of all parents who care for children and are separated from them;
on the behalf of all families who must flee the violence of empires;
on behalf of our neighbors in Nashville who are being separated from their families;
on behalf of all children who have been taken from parents for reasons that are unjust…
We must ask with Mary: “Why have you treated us like this?”
We must ask the elders,
the political and religious leaders of Nashville
Mayor David Briley and Sheriff Daron Hall
and leaders all across the nation,
the Herods and temple leaders of our day…
Mary’s question (say it with me):
“Why have you treated us like this?”
Because when you treat one of us this way, you treat all of us this way.
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If you, my friends, are searching for Jesus… If you are looking for him, look no further than the children and families at the border. Look no further than the children and families of Nashville who have migrated here. God’s business is with them. God’s business is with children and families on the border and with children and families who have migrated to Nashville.
God’s business is to accompany those who are fleeing violence. God’s business is to resist violence and seek peace and healing. God’s business is the dismantling of empire and to suffering it causes. God’s business is seeking love and justice for the oppressed. God’s business is dismantling the powers of white supremacy and the abuses of power.
We take action today by asking Mary’s question: “Why have you treated us like this?” Why have you treated our neighbors with disrespect, disdain and lock them up simply for seeking a safe and peaceful place to live?
We take action today by asked Jesus’s question: “Don’t you know we have to be doing God’s business?” God’s business in Nashville is to love our neighbors, not to misuse the power of the state or to ignore the power of the church when we lock families up, separate families, and deport people who are fleeing violence and oppression.
We can do better than this! (Say it with me.) We can do God’s business! (Say it with me.)
Pray with me or if you not a person who prays, then I invite you to be a witness to this prayer:
God, give us the courage of Joseph to act quickly when we know the right thing to do.
God, give us the insight and compassion of Mary to ask hard questions and seek to reunite families.
God, give us the wisdom and the willingness of Jesus to do your business in Nashville and in the whole world as you call us to action.
In hope, in esperanza we pray.
Amen. Or as I like to say it: I’m in.
Watch a video of the rally here.
A version of these remarks also appeared on Ethics Daily on Friday, June 29.