Scott Daniel McVarish, Esq.
Immigration Sermon (translated into English from its original Spanish)
Originally given on Celular Church Charla, January 23, 2011
Buenas tardes hermanas y hermanos.
It has been such a joy for me to get to know many of you on the past two weekends. I have loved hearing the words of your great pastors and the very moving music that fills this great space. The emotion you have shared with me has challenged me to feel God in a different manner. It is powerful and for this I give thanks.
But now it is my turn to challenge you.
In the next ten minutes, I will give each of you two challenges. Please listen carefully. There will be a test afterward.
As you know, I am an immigration attorney. To me, immigration is about opportunity, family & hope.
I stand with many native-born Americans in a belief that our country is great because we have welcomed the talents and spirit of immigrants. We are a nation of immigrants and that is why we will always improve as a country. I believe we should be gracious toward the immigrant among us for it was not too long ago that that the immigrant was our own parent or grandparent. There are many of us in this country who feel this way.
Some who believe this do so because they belong to the Democratic party; some because they are Christians or people of other gentle faiths.
But I believe this because I come from a family where three of my four grandparents were immigrants. And, my first legal case after graduating from UCLA law school in 1997 was my wife’s green card.
So, for me, Immigration is not about politics or ideology…it is about making a better life, keeping families together and having hope for the future. Opportunity, family and hope. Indeed, my family owes its existence and success to immigration.
We are all immigrants here in this great country.
But immigration is bigger than just individuals moving from one land to another. And to understand this, we must turn to God. We must attempt to find God’s plan in the exodus of his children from different nations of the world.
Throughout the bible, there are stories of mass migrations of people. The movement of people has occurred in and out of every nation in the history of the world. It will continue to do so as long as injustice and inequities exist. To think God disapproves of immigrants entering another nation without permission is to ignore the stories from almost every chapter in the bible. Hispanic immigration into the U.S. is just another chapter in the long story of God’s children moving around the globe.
But perhaps the greatest refugee in the history of the world was no other than Jesus Christ himself.
According to the Book of Mathew when Herod the Great ordered all young boys in Bethlehem be slaughtered, Joseph and Mary took Jesus and sought asylum in Egypt (Mathew 2: 14). No where does it say they asked permission of the Egyptian government before they fled to save their lives. Do we need to look any further on what God’ view of immigration is if he made his only son a refugee?
God’s will for immigrants
Many people think immigrants come to the united states in order to save themselves. Those with a Christian perspective may even say that God is saving immigrants by allowing them to reach this country safely. For the arrival of your family and mine, we are right to give thanks to God.
But, maybe God’s plan is not so simple to discern. Maybe God is not saving immigrants by allowing them to come here. Instead, maybe God is bringing immigrants here to save the United States. The history of our country has always been shaped by immigrants and their children. I have no doubt that our future will be shaped by the children of the immigrants here in this church no matter whatever laws are created to make your lives difficult. In the end, all of your families will be part of the American family.
But, maybe God isn’t so concerned about our country. Maybe God says the United States is not his main concern. Instead, maybe God looks down at the state of the Christian church here in America and he is not happy. Maybe he sees people who should be in his churches are instead pursing the empty values promoted by hollywood and a consumer culture. Or, maybe God sees people who call themselves Christian spreading hate against fellow Christians simply because they are from a different part of God’s kingdom.
Yes, maybe God has brought you here to help revitalize the Christian Church in the United States. Maybe you have a mission greater than simply having a more comfortable life. Maybe God want you here to save us. Maybe U.S. Citizens & our American churches need you, more than you need us.
I am not unmindful that many of these here today have felt the pain of injustice and prejudice set against you. I will simply repeat the words so wisely said by your Pastor two weeks ago who noted “that you are now the majority in Los Angeles” and soon will be so in the entire state of California. So this is my first challenge to you…. It is your turn to shape our society here. Are you ready? Are you ready to lead? What will each one of you do to help create a better society? Please look to the neighbor to the left or to the right of you, look in to their eyes, and say the following: This is your land…you need to lead your family…to be a positive example for all the community to see…I promise I will do this. Amen. That is my first challenge to you.
Now, I would like to say a few words about Hospitality for the stranger…
In the Old Testament, the stories of hospitality are endless:
- The poor widow of Zarephath shares what little she has with the Prophet Elijah;
- The Midianite Ruel chastises his daughters for not inviting the Egyptian Moses in for some food;
- Abraham welcomed the three strangers into his tent and offered them hospitality; later Abraham is the one in need of hospitality of strangers when he travels.
And, in Leviticus 19:34: God says: “The foreigner who resides with you must be to you like a native citizen among you; so you must love him as yourself, because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.”
In the New Testament, Romans chapter 12:
Paul’s states that the true Christian will “extend hospitality to strangers” (philoxenia) andpractice “brotherly love” (or philadelphia). The word Paul uses, philoxenia, literally means the love of aliens. THIS is Christian hospitality. THIS is what a good neighbor does. LOVE THE ALIEN.
When Jesus was asked: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Mathew 22:36) If Jesus says this, is there anything left to argue about. This is the SECOND most important commandment. Is there anyone here who would like to follow Jesus but is not sure exactly what to do? Here you have it, Jesus gives you two commandments.
These Judeo-christian traditions of hospitality & loving the alien are repeated throughout the Bible. Yet many of our Christian bothers and sister express “xenophobia,” a hatred of foreigners, instead of philoxenia.
But that is not for you to change, only God can change the hearts of men and women. Nevertheless, you too are mandated by God to show “philadelphia” or brotherly love; you have Jesus’s second commandment to follow. So I say, let God reach Christians here in the united States through your actions. Can you show philadelphia & love to your neighbor? No, not your neighbor in this church or on your street, but to the neighbor who is a stranger to you; a stranger who loves God but has yet to practice God’s wishes of loving the alien. Who follows Jesus, but has forgotten Jesus’ second commandment.
So, now we come to the second challenge I want to give you. I am asking you to inspire God’s wish of hospitality for the stranger by showing some yourself. I want you to follow Jesus’s second commandment. When your beautiful new temple opens us, will you cook up some tomales, tortas, and biscoches and bring them to the nearest church that that is predominately gringos? And then, ask them to attend your church the following week? Will you let them meet the alien that God wants them to love. Will you give them a chance to show hospitality and brotherly love as you all share your love of God and Christ.