What Mary, the Holy Refugee, Said
Poor Governor. The temptation to succumb to the noisy intimidation of a frightened and angry crowd is just too strong, even when Jesus, the beloved child of God, is standing right in front of you. The crowd wants Jesus eliminated because he upsets their comfortable security. How terrifying! What if the homeless, the sick, the children, the wretched disposable of the earth were to demand our attention, even our favorable treatment? What if Jesus’ threat was actually credible? What if true religion did not depend on the homeland security of the Temple, with all its cults, rules, and class distinctions, but rather on how we cared for the unemployed, the wounded, the widowed, the orphaned, and prisoners?
What strikes more terror in the heart of the powerful--a bomb, or the Gospel proclamation that God is turning the world upside down? The Breaking News that injustice has been under divine assault since the days when the ancient Hebrews were sprung from the Pharaoh’s shackles. That God already has
scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty. (Luke 1:51-53
These words from the most famous refugee mother in history are nothing less than seditious. Mary’s song, known as the Magnificat, is God’s domestic economic plan and God’s foreign policy all summed up and put into verse so that countless faithful Christians throughout the ages, and throughout the world, would come to know it by heart. It’s a song that terrifies anyone who puts their trust in the means of violence, or in isolating themselves from those in need.
Dear Governor, if I were you, Pilate, the Governor of Judea, knowing how threatening Jesus is to the tenuous order and delicate peace between all the parties I oversee, ignorant of what the Kingdom Jesus is King of might look like, I doubt I would have done other than what you did. Pass the water bowl and the hand towel.
And. Please. God. Forgive. Me.
But that was then. Now, we know how the story ends. Our story will end with the gates to our cities all open, by day or night, never shut. All nations streaming around a table with people from every family language, people and nation, serving as priests to serve the One God. (Does anyone remember those canticles from Morning Prayer anymore?) That’s what the Heavenly Kingdom looks like, and that’s what we pray will come whenever we say the Lord’s Prayer.
So, friends, please don’t be too harsh on our Governors, Senators, Congressmen, Presidents, and other campaigning politicians when they succumb to the fearful cries and angry demands of crowds. Pray for them. They are doing the job we all give them to do. It’s so easy to be disappointed, outraged, and then ultimately disengage. It’s good to be reminded, as Jesus does when he stands before Pilate, that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world.
Our job as “resident aliens” who have dual citizenship in both the fallen, earthly realm and the Kingdom of God, is to point to the Glory of God--to welcome and serve those who are suffering as though we were welcoming Mary, Joseph and Jesus. In our homes. In our schools. In our churches. Our job is not first to secure our own safety, except the impenetrable safety that comes from knowing that our life is in the Risen Christ. Our job is to secure the safety of the stranger, the immigrant, and those, like the Holy Family who were forced to run for their lives to Egypt from the fury of a terrified Herod. Our job is to elect those who resist the temptation to govern out of fear, and to urge and support our officials to resist cynicism, despair, and hatred.
Some in our congregations may be called generously to open their homes to refugees. Let us support them with our substance, prayers, friendship, hospitality, and encouragement. Some may be called to raise funds and awareness of our companions in mission, like Episcopal Migration Ministries and Episcopal Relief & Development, who are caring for refugees and migrants in camps and settlements in Europe. May we be generous with our prayers and our money, to support them in this season when we contemplate the arrival of the One who entered the full catastrophe of the human experience--Immanuel, God-with-us, Jesus, the Savior.