Esther on My Mind

“What am I willing to sacrifice to make sanctuary happen?”

This was the question that was posed to the audience toward the end of the workshop put on by the Central Ohio Worker Center last evening.  A crowd of more than 300 people (including many of you) crammed into our worship space, listened to an overview of how the U.S. immigration system works (or often doesn’t work), heard how the recent administration change and executive orders are affecting immigrant populations, and explored some ideas about what it might mean to create sanctuary in our community. 

When it was all over, however, the question above is what hung in the air for me.  I appreciated that it was posed not in a guilt-inducing or coercive way, but in a way that recognized we each have our own unique contribution to make that only we can choose.  The presenters offered a number of suggestions for ways to get involved, to advocate, and to work at creating sanctuary for vulnerable populations, but in the end it came down to that question. 

And as I reflect on my own answer to that question, I can’t help but think of Esther.  Last Sunday, Joel preached from the book of Esther and focused on finding our “no” and our “yes” as we discern how God is calling each of us “in such a time as this.”  God may be calling, but it is still up to us to say “yes” to choices that build shalom or “no” to actions that bring harm. 

God may be calling, but even before we say “yes” or “no”, it is up to us to hear that call. 

In response to a threat against an entire population of people, Esther had a choice to make, a choice that would involve sacrifice no matter which way she decided.  But first, she committed herself and encouraged her people to a time of prayer and fasting. 

Personally, I do not yet know what I am willing to sacrifice to make sanctuary happen, and thus am not yet sure I know how to be a leader for a faith community that is also asking that question.  Regardless of how you feel about our current president or the recent executive order on immigration (and I do not assume that we are all the same), I do believe that we must be willing to recognize and lament the suffering of those fleeing violence and oppression and to decide how we can faithfully respond. 

Many of you have spoken to me in the last few weeks about feeling confused, overwhelmed, mentally scattered, and fearful as you try to figure out what it means to be faithful to following Christ in these times.  I am right there with you. 

Among other things contained in the executive order, a 120 day freeze has been placed on all refugee resettlement.  In response, I have decided to commit myself to a day-long fast once a week for the next 120 days as a way to remember those suffering around the world and listen for the ways God is calling me to say “yes” to creating sanctuary, “yes” to creating holy, sacred spaces in such a time as this. 

I tell you this not in the hopes that you will praise me or think I'm extra holy but in the hopes that you will join me in whatever way will best allow you to hear God’s unique call on your life and our life together as the Church.  Looking ahead, our upcoming theme for Lent is about finding the balance between the inward and outward journey of faith.  How can all of us be intentional about carving out space in our lives to pray and listen for what God requires of us so that we might be strengthened to go and do? 



(For those who are interested, the powerpoint from the workshop can be accessed HERE and videos can be found HERE.)