The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
the Lord who has founded it on the seas,
and established it on the rivers. Psalm 24:1-2
Yesterday was an important day in the Presbytery of San Gabriel. In the morning, Arcadia Community Church called Rev. John Scholte to be their new pastor. It was a joyous day, a clear demonstration of God’s grace in bringing together a gifted pastor and a faithful, vibrant church. It was a gift for COM Moderator Cyndie Crowell and me to witness the work of the Pastor Nominating Committee, who represented different parts of the Arcadia church, yet who listened well to each other’s perspectives, and offered their varied skills and priorities in a fruitful manner. Rev. Scholte, who currently has standing with the Reformed Church in America (RCA), should be coming before the Presbytery on November 16th.
In the afternoon, the Presbytery installed Rev. Lisa Hansen as pastor of Pasadena Presbyterian Church in a beautiful service that marked a hopeful new chapter in PPC’s ministry. Lisa is providing faithful, solid leadership for all of PPC, and though other transitions lay ahead, the Gospel lives through the people of PPC.
You may remember that Lisa also transferred in from the RCA. The RCA is the denomination that is closest to the PC(USA)—one RCA official refers to them as “the Dutch PCUSA.” But the RCA is facing serious internal conflict. My understanding is that they will be making some fundamental decisions about the future of the denomination in their General Synod next month, and I told the clerk of the classis (think stated clerk of the presbytery) in Southern California that I’d ask you to pray for them. Just as we have seen the gracious hand of God in directing these churches in Pasadena and Arcadia, let us pray that all churches and denominations—and their members and pastors—see many reasons to give thanks for God’s providence, especially in times of transition.
In between these two events, the September Camino de San Diego (aka the Virtual Border Trip) concluded by watching the livestream of the Border Church at worship (https://www.facebook.com/BorderChurch), a weekly church service held with people on both sides of the border between Tijuana and San Diego, and our closing reflection on our last few weeks visiting the border. The trip is organized—beautifully—by Via International (https://viainternational.org/), and this virtual approach provides valuable glimpses into not only the crisis of a broken immigration system, the inequalities and trials that cause people to attempt to migrate to the United States, and some really impressive self-determined community development work that is facilitated by Via International and others. I hope that we can offer this again, and more people will be able to experience it.
I have to say that these visits were quite challenging, especially at this particular time when it seems the whole world is being displaced. During these last few weeks of the Border Trip, we also heard about the evacuation and eventual placement of tens of thousands of Afghan refugees, we saw the horrible treatment of Haitian refugees attempting to enter into Texas, and Congress and the Administration continue to stumble in their attempts to resolve multiple problems in the US policies on immigration, even as a Texas federal court ruled that DACA is illegal.
The cumulative effect of so many people trying to enter the relative safety and prosperity of the United States can overwhelm all of us as we try to figure out how to be compassionate and prudent in managing the continuing stream of people trying to find a home in the United States. Continued attempts to close the border bring to mind a large and well-appointed palace housing a relatively small group of people, who are doing everything they can do to block entry into the palace by large groups of needy people trying to get in.
I confess that I am almost paralyzed by the shame of recognizing the injustice in a privileged few withholding resources from so many (and knowing that I am one of those few), and the panic of being overrun by what seems to be a never-ending stream of potential immigrants. What do we do?
We try to manage the situation, to be prudent in finding a feasible approach to the immigration situation. It’s like the challenge faced by affluent Christians (and that includes nearly all of us)—it’s so popular to say we need to take care of ourselves, and make sure we have enough before we can give to others, but what is enough? Do we ever get to the point where we are able to give freely?
Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t give us any easy answers. The Bible gives answers like:
- Go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor
- Deny yourselves and take up your cross daily and follow
- There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold.
Personally, the question of immigration may be answered by the Psalmist who wrote “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.” If we treat everything we try to manage as the Lord’s, and not our own, would we make different decisions? Is it right for us to try to hold onto property and privilege, if we realize that we really don’t own what we have to enjoy?
I share this reflection humbly, knowing that I regularly spoil myself with frivolous luxuries. But if we claim to follow the Bible, we need to think what the Bible is saying about our choices, and the people whose choices we deny. I make no demands; but I would ask that you join me in praying on it.
And in the meantime, may you enjoy the many blessings God has given you—and may we all trust that God will continue to bless us.
In the peace of Christ,