This is a picture of my father and his grandchildren.
It's a picture of my past. It's a picture of my future. And you know what? I'm not sure it would have come to be in what our world has become. Sit tight, I have a story to tell and a commitment that I'll make. Join me for a sec, will you?
I can't. I've watched the conversations about immigrants and thought about my family. My dad came over on a boat with his parents. Literally. Now you can say you know someone who came over on a boat in a world where apparently people only jump fences? This is of course, my pain. I have been afforded a life that benefitted from the simple reality that when my Opa (Dutch, not German, although I'm not sure that mattered to some Americans) was looking to care for his family and have a life of abundance, The United States of America welcomed him from war-torn Europe to settle here. I see what is happening to our country now. Our attitudes towards the other, and I cry for them - because they are my Oma, Opa, and father.
I can't. Really, I can't watch the news because the pictures of crying children with no one to hold them. If you've ever seen my darling children and thought how wonderful the world is because they are in it (and you have access to them thanks to their awesome dad), then you know a small part of my heart as I see the children of others. This is my pain. My children are okay somehow? I don't have words or the imagination for what I would be capable of if they were to go without. If they were threatened. If they were separated from me. I am haunted... haunted by the faces of these children because they make me think of my children. I cry for them -my children and theirs because they are my kids. My kids.
I can't. I feel powerless. I feel hopeless. I feel shame at my inability, as a pastor, father, son, grandson, a person that I can't change things (but of course that isn't true). I feel anger at those who would use the Bible as a weapon of death, exclusion, or division (and yes, that is me as well sometimes). I feel fear that such a thing could happen to my children (while it happens to so many) or that this will be a reality that will forever mark our world for the worse (while so many awful things happen all over). I feel sad that I can't justify my own silence anymore and that reality has passed. It must be let go and I must commit to my past and my future.
I'm committing to my father, although he didn't ask me to do this. I'm committing to my children, although they are blissfully unaware of the pain in my heart. I'm committing to you, child of God, to be a good neighbor. Starting from the families closest to my residence, I'm going to reach out through the people in my church, the people in my community, the folks on my street, and I'm going to touch the lives of the people who know only pain, suffering, and exclusion.
I can do that. Jesus tells a story about being a good neighbor.
I commit to trying to look more like the Samaritan. He has some awesome qualities that I need in my life. I can be moved with pity. I can bandage wounds. I can use my own means (money and otherwise) to care for those who are forgotten, left for dead. I can make sure others are cared for when I can't be there.
I can have mercy. I can be a good neighbor.
I also commit to not be like the lawyer and love as Jesus did (and does) when confronted with the simple question... "Who is my neighbor?" I commit to not looking for loopholes. I commit to not being bound by my shame, guilt, or justifications. I commit to hearing Jesus when he says, "Go and do likewise."
My past deserves this. My future deserves this. My God deserves this. They deserve this. Join me.