The Oasis - June 19, 2019
Author: Rev. Estelle Margarones
June 19, 2019
Rev. Estelle Margarones
“Where is God in this situation?” is a question I learned to ask in my chaplaincy training and it serves me well to this day. No matter what you’re going through, God is always there.
If you’re willing to do so, I’d like you to think back to a difficult time in your life, but not the most heart-wrenching time. I don’t want to upset you, but I would like you to think about a time that presented a significant challenge. Perhaps you moved, lost a job, had a break-up or, or didn’t get into your first choice college.
Where was God in that situation? Did God show up as the neighbor that brought you a meal or was God the person who encouraged you to try again? Did you find the Spirit in a stranger at the grocery store? Was God’s presence apparent in a close friend or in the person who offered you a job when you were down to your last few dollars?
Several times a month, I close the worship service with the words, “Live the light. Give the light. And bring Heaven to Earth.” I believe that when we fully embrace the Christian experience (living in the light), then that spirit imbues all we do and we can’t help but reflect Christ’s light to others (giving the light). In doing so, it’s my hope that we do bring Heaven to earth whether through grand gestures or small kindnesses.
Think back to the difficult time you had. And now imagine that all of your support—friends, family, finances—all of it was gone. Imagine that your life as you knew it had taken a careening hairpin turn. Now, you need to begin again, in a different country with different languages, different foods, different customs and all in a different culture. In a very real sense, you’re starting from scratch. Where is God in this situation?
Right now, there are people who have made long and dangerous treks away from war, violence, and dangers we can’t even imagine. They’ve come to Maine seeking asylum and their journey will continue to be arduous as they navigate the immigration process.
Just instructed us to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. When he was asked to define a neighbor, he gave the example of the Good Samaritan, someone who took notice and showed kindness even though Samaritans and Jews were at odds with each other.
Last week a congregant came in to talk with me about the asylum seekers who had just arrived in Portland. I suggested that she bring this information to the appropriate team in our church so that they might be able to coordinate some kind of effort. She and I may have thought that our conversation was over when she left my office, but I experienced the truth of two of our UCC slogans in the following days. One slogan says, “Never put a period where God has placed a comma” and the other is “God is still speaking”.
Late yesterday afternoon, I received a letter from our Conference Minister, Rev. Deborah Blood asking about interest in making donations to a Maine UCC fund for the asylum seekers who have just arrived.
Fortuitously, the Deacons were to meet just a few hours later, so I brought this to their attention.
Their support for the cause was overwhelming and I can honestly say that I am so proud, humbled, and gratified to work in a church that actually ‘walks the walk’. The Diaconate has made a commitment to support this fund and they suggested that we open this opportunity to the entire church community.
The Bible actually has a lot to say about how we are to treat foreigners. Exodus 23:9 says, “You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.” Leviticus 19:33-34 says, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God”.
Deuteronomy 10:19 says, “So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.” Hebrews 13:2 reminds us that God has got people working for Him here on earth. “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it.”
In her letter of inquiry, Rev. Blood says: Our aggregated funds could have a much greater impact when directed well, and for the longer term. In conversation with some of our Portland based pastors, it appears that the City of Portland funds will end July 1. The broader community will have to pick up from there, for shelter, food, medical care, legal advice, etc. It seems that the Portland Family Promise and Preble Street will continue to need support. The Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project also needs substantial support to help our New Mainers navigate the immigration system. We would be guided by advice from those actually serving on the ground as to the greatest needs. We would be in this for the longer term. We would seek to meet needs that would otherwise go unmet.
If you are feeling moved to make a donation, we will take a special collection at First Parish on JUNE 30TH. Checks can be made payable to the Maine Conference, UCC with a memo notation, “Asylum Seekers Fund” and placed in an envelope from your pew back. They can be dropped in the offering plate along with your regular pledge envelopes.
If you’d prefer to send the check to the UCC yourself, the address is Maine Conference, United Church of Christ, 337 State Street, Suite 3, Augusta, ME 04330
Money is but one way to support this (or any) cause. Prayers matter. Please know that your prayerful support of things that are near to your heart does make a difference! I’m grateful for the many ways this community shines Christ’s light.