This past Sunday, one of our hymns was Will You Come and Follow Me? The lyrics fit right in with Jesus' call of Nathanael and led us to think about the ways in which Jesus calls us to follow him. The first verse of the hymn is "Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?" I'm sure you've had experiences when words of scripture or hymns in worship seem to speak to current events or something going on in your life. During this hymn, I thought about the man we commemorated this week for his tireless civil rights accomplishments, the man who was born with the name Michael but whose father changed his and his son's names to Martin Luther after they traveled to Germany and learned more about the reformer. I thought about a national meeting on immigration and a vile name that was alleged to have been uttered by the president about countries whose immigrants we have welcomed into our own. I thought about the immigrants named "Dreamers" and decisions that are being made about their future. Immigration is a huge "hot button" issue in our country right now. Candidates for office will be speaking loudly about immigration issues as we near the elections in November. Name-calling will likely occur by people of many different political persuasions.
As Christians, you and I have a right, a calling, to speak clearly about this issue, too. As followers of Jesus, our ministry is one of welcome, respect, hospitality and mercy - to all people, especially those fleeing persecution or natural disaster. Much of our country's strength has been built on those who have emigrated here and worked hard, raised families and contributed to their communities. Quite simply, our mission as disciples of Jesus, the one who calls us by name, is not to call others names, but to work for the well-being of all. It would help, I think, to remember Nathanael's haunting words about Jesus, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"
You can read about the immigration work the ELCA is doing at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services' website: http://lirs.org/. You may also be interested in ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton's response to last week's immigration remarks at http://elca.org/News-and-Events/7906.
"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality." - Martin Luther King, Jr.