The migrant God

by Rev. Paul L. Escamilla, Senior Pastor

As I reflect with you about the most faithful ways to respond to the needs of displaced persons and families along our border and in our city, I am led again and again to the Bible, and its predisposition toward the stranger, the resident alien, the foreign-born person who finds their way by choice or by accident into one’s community.

I discover in those pages that over and over, through and through, God directs the faithful to give special treatment to strangers who land on their shores, appear in their towns, show up at their doorsteps in various states of need. So many in the sacred story were migrants themselves, beginning of course with Adam and Eve, who, even as they are displaced from their home in the Garden of Eden, are fitted with garments made by God’s own hand (Genesis 3). Then follow Cain, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Jacob, Rachel, and Leah, traveling or wandering through strange lands, always with God; Joseph, Miriam and Moses, Paul and Silas—and Jesus, of course, a refugee from childhood (Matthew 2). “Foxes have holes,” he once told a cluster of would-be followers, “and the birds of the air have nests,” but he had “nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9). The Word became flesh, the evangelist writes (John 2), and, as the Greek renders it, “put up a tent among us.” Ours is a migrant God.

No wonder the keystone in the archway of Christian devotion is hospitality. To extend accommodation to those who present themselves unannounced in our established communities is not only an act of human decency toward other human beings; such gestures honor—even recognize—the God who accompanies both the situated and the displaced, the templed and the tented.

Our southern border and our own city have become places of hoped-for haven and transit for thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers. Enormously complex policy questions loom over us regarding long-term resolutions to this geopolitical phenomenon. And yet, whether convenient or not; whether in line with our particular political ideologies or not; whether popular or not; whether economically feasible or not; our faith summons us to recognize our own biblical story in this tumultuous scene. Though difficult for a whole host of reasons, our faith leads us to care for the stranger, welcome the outcast, befriend the sojourner, and provide for the needs of those who, like our brother Jesus, have no place to lay their head.

Our congregation is already involved in such responses in generous and beautiful ways through partnerships with Interfaith Welcome Coalition (which also has connections with El Divino Salvador and Travis Park United Methodist Churches); the United Methodist Women’s Holding Institute in Laredo; and the work of our Board of Global Ministries’ JFON chapter in San Antonio, to name a few. A listing of other ways to respond is included in this newsletter as well. (Opportunities are listed on page 3. Also see the IFC Thank You message on page 2).

In what I consider Matthew’s other great commission, Jesus said “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25). Pray with me that in this pressing moment we may find faithful, compassionate, just, and sustainable ways to welcome the stranger, and the Christ.

Grace and peace.