Following God's Call
Speaker: The Rev'd Debbie Kirk
God of love, we ask that you inspire us to listen to your voice and to act with courage. Amen.
What does it mean to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind….and love our neighbor as ourselves? What kind of commitment is Jesus talking about? And who is our neighbor?
I learn so much about faith and courage, love and commitment, from listening to people’s stories, whether face to face or in the written word. I will share two stories with you that have inspired me and taught me about taking risks to follow God’s call to love unselfishly. The first story is from 2017, and the second from the Bible.
The first story is the face to face one. I now have the opportunity to hear stories of faith in action not only from our church community, but also from the community of vulnerable populations that I now serve directly. This first story comes from the community served by the non-profit organization CASA. This person whom I will call Cindy has given me permission to tell you her story. She is a DACA recipient. DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is the program that gave legal status to many children who have grown up here, youth that have successfully gone through school including some now in college and graduate school, and have not been in trouble. These youth speak English, most with no accent; they are assimilated into American culture; they can have legal driver’s licenses; they can go to school or work; they are starting families; they are paying taxes and buying houses. Many of these youth have no memories of the country where they were born and know no one there; some do not even speak the language of that country. Their world is here in the United States with a rich cultural heritage from another country that they know usually only from family and friends.
Cindy came to the US when she was four; now she is in her early twenties. She doesn’t have personal memories of her country of origin, the culture there, nor does she personally know the few relatives who remain there.
The DACA program has given Cindy hope. She has legal status. With that hope, she finished high school and can enter college. She has a driver’s license. She works and pays taxes. None of this would have been possible without the DACA program.
CASA offered her an opportunity to play a role in defending the rights of DACA recipients who had this hope, this dream, until the program was terminated. If the dream is to exist now, it is up to Congress. Congress has never passed legislation to enact either the Dream Act giving these children a pathway to citizenship or DACA legislation to continue their legal status.
Cindy is now speaking out publicly through CASA, Washington Lawyer’s Committee, Howard University Law School, and the private law firm of Arnold and Porter to make the situation of DACA recipients public on a personal basis. She has made a decision to speak out for the more than 800,000 DACA recipients who will be deportable in March 2018 unless Congress acts. She risks retaliation, not only for herself, but also for her family. She is taking a risk because she feels that her faith requires her to love her neighbor—to stand up for and defend other DACA recipients she does not know but who will lose so much. After intense prayer and discussion with her family, Cindy made the decision to risk her own future to help others. Her decision was based, she told me, on how she perceived God wants us to love him and how we should love our neighbor, including the stranger in our world. I admire her love and her commitment to God and neighbor.
Now to the second story. This story is from the Bible. It is also a story about someone who was born into one culture, but was taken as a child and raised in another culture. This person was born into an Israelite family, but was raised as an Egyptian, an Egyptian with power and privilege. Does this story beg into sound familiar? This man didn’t face his difficult but courageous decision until he was in his forties. But he, too, was given an opportunity to speak out and to defend people’s rights. Have you guessed who it was?
Moses. Moses answered God’s call to defend and protect people too. He perceived God’s call and was willing to risk his future well-being and safety in order to bring other people to safety and to hope. He made a commitment to love God and to love his neighbor above himself. He risked his own future to save others. And as the Bible tells us, he didn’t have an easy time of it. And in the end, he didn’t get to the promised land. But the people to whom he made the commitment to love, they entered the promised land. The faith Moses had in God remained with him throughout his life. He loved God with all his heart, soul, and mind and loved his neighbor more than himself.
In both the stories today, these individuals listened to God’s call. They prayed for God’s guidance and followed their love and commitment to God and community that resided in their hearts. They acted with courage to save others, despite the possibility of serious adverse consequences to themselves.
As we approach All Saints Day, I think of the song my children learned in Sunday School. “I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true, who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew…they loved the Lord … and his love made them strong, they followed the right for Jesus’ sake, the whole of their good lives long.”
I conclude as we began, with the collect in which we prayed that God might increase us in the gifts of faith, hope, and love.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.