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Faith in the Face of Fear

Robert T. Hoshibata, Resident Bishop of the Desert Southwest Conference of The United Methodist Church

Robert T. Hoshibata, Resident Bishop of the Desert Southwest Conference of The United Methodist Church

Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,
Grace and peace to you in the name and spirit of Jesus who calms the troubled seas!

There is a special place in my heart for Paris, where I spent a semester of my college life studying its language and culture.  I came to love Paris, and so the news of terrorism there saddens me deeply.  I have never been to Mali or Beirut.  Yet, recent terrorist attacks there sadden me, also.  It seems that in these places and many more, the world is crumbling apart, crushed by violence and destruction.  And I have never visited Syria, yet news of crowds of refugees fleeing for their lives in hope of finding safety and security and a future for their children moves me at a deep place.  I can well understand the desire to find a new home where there is freedom to worship and to thrive.

Our human reactions to these events are many, varied, and complex.  Although it is a political issue, it will not be solved solely by the action of a legislative body. It is a crisis of the heart and soul but it will not find resolution in one sermon or one blog post.  Somewhere in between is the place God wants us to be in this matter. We must lean upon God to help us find a resolution in the coming together of the best minds guided by the faith lessons of love and acceptance.

I believe it is God’s very nature to understand what it means to be a refugee.  The stories of the Bible tell of wandering, fleeing, crossing borders for safety and security.  Once upon a time, even Mary and Joseph were political refugees, escaping from evil that threatened the life of their baby, whom they named Jesus.

The plight of the refugees is touching many hearts.  Many who were resolutely against allowing Syrian refugees into their countries were moved when a little baby drowned in the attempt by his parents to find a place of welcome and hospitality.  Then the terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris and Mali turned many hearts to stone because of anger and fear.  The recoiling from those brutal, evil acts has caused many US governors and our politicians in Washington, D.C., to turn their backs on the refugees, even those who would enter in peace, in the quest for safety and a chance for a secure future.

Fear is what cripples us. Fear is what causes us to close borders to all because we are afraid of the few.  Fear is what causes us to lash out against those who are innocent because we have categorized them as being “the enemy.”  I receive strength through my faith which reminds us that amid the maelstrom, God is with us.  Remember the story in Matthew of Jesus calming the storm? Facing imminent danger, the disciples woke Jesus frantically:  “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”  To which Jesus replied:  “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” And then the storm was calmed. (Matthew 8:23-27)

May our faith in a God of love and peace lead and guide us in this challenging time. The US government’s structures to vet those who want to come are in place.  Perhaps we might look at ways to strengthen that vetting process.  But we must also be bold to model Jesus’ behavior in the midst of the tempest, and have the courage of faith to see the deeper importance of welcoming the refugee, the stranger, those who are fleeing from evil, violence and death; the ones crossing borders for safety. And to understand that we must welcome people of all faiths, not only Christians; receiving them in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior, the “once-upon-a-time refugee.”

In that deep faith, I ask you to pray for the places where lives have been lost, where injury has been sustained by many because of terrorism so that God’s comfort will be felt. Pray for the refugees who flee for safety that they may be welcomed in the places where they will find the peace that they seek.  Pray that violence against innocent persons will end. Ask God to intervene in the hearts of those who are exposed to the process of radicalization and fervently ask God to turn the hearts of those who perpetrate violence.

In Christ’s love,

 

 

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