Any Steve Earle fans out there? A few years ago he released a cd Jerusalem with a song called Amerika v. 6.0. Listen to these lyrics; 'lets build a great wall around the country club to keep the riff-raff out.' Friday's paper; $1 Billion dollars toward a wall between US and Mexico. The Pope's statements about Islam, the proposed censoring of books in Tenn, books deemed inapropriate because they are in Spanish. What do we do with 'others?' Build a wall indeed. We are about to engage in the physical construction of something that has existed for many many years in America, a wall between us and the others.
This past sunday I felt I needed to approach this topic from a Biblical narrative. And that wasn't easy because if you want to find biblical support for a 'riff-raff' wall, you can. Early in Deuteronomy Moses commands the people of Israel to destroy all the other people that God delivers to them. Now that is a serious wall between us and others. Destroy them. But later in Deuteronomy God commands the people to have mercy and compassion for aliens. Same book in the Bible, very different outlook on how to deal with others.
I looked to the story of Esther for guidance. I did an informal straw pole three sundays ago; How many have ever heard a sermon from Esther. Now there are some life-long Baptists in this church and not one could ever remember a sermon from Esther. The story of Esther is an amazing commentary on 'Empire' and the place of a child of God in that Empire. In chapter 3 the King Xerxes or Ahaseuras is convinced that the Jews in his kingdom are too different, too other, and must be destroyed. The book of Esther goes to great lengths to describe the evil opulence of Empire. The opening of the book describes the beauty of the palace, a beauty that is almost, no definitely, too much. The king throws a six-month party for the elites (the little people get a few days.) Material wealth is the true god of this kingdom. parties are the worship. Not only are the poor treated as objects for labor, so are women... and then finally, the proposed genocide of the Jews. The point is obvious to me. A nation that can so easily dismiss 'others' is not a nation that fears God. No a fence is not nearly the same as genocide and I am sure no one proposing the fence is thinking anything close to violence. Perhaps I am an alarmist, but it seems to me that a fence is one step in the march of fear closer to terrible things. We have been on this march for some time. We marched to Afganistan and I'm not convinced of the purpose or the success; we moved onto Iraq, again, a changing purpose and little success; now Iran and N. Korea; and a fence around Mexico. How long will we march to this beat of fearing the other? How long will our leaders keep shifting the people to be feared and how long will we follow along being afraid?
After my sermon we celebrated communion. I have never appreciated the idea of communion as a meal of the Kingdom the way I did this past sunday. In Revelation all the nation's flock to the New Jerusalem (another song by Stever Earle by the way.) When we take communion we are meant to imagine that there are no 'others.' Instead we are all children of God and all welcome to eat from the same table.