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Answering the Wall with Solidarity and Compassion

Praying at the Mexican border.  Photo from United Church of Christ News.

Praying at the Mexican border. Photo from United Church of Christ News.

This coming week a mass demonstration will be held in solidarity with the thousands of children and adults who have been detained and brutally treated as a result of the unprecedented border security policies of the current U.S. administration. There will be calls for recognition of the causes for the migration from the south of the border, and our U.S. role in many of these causes, along with proposals for immigration reform in the next Congress. Following is the announcement (edited slightly by Erasing Borders) of the gathering at the southern border in the United Church of Christ News of September 7 written by Connie Larkman.

“At Border Convergence in Nogales, Arizona/Senora, Mexico, UCC congregations will join the School of the Americas Watch, immigrants’ rights groups and interfaith partners during the first week of October to demand justice for immigrants and laws that address the root causes of migration.

Thousands of activists are expected to gather at this vigil to push back against militarization of the border, against criminalization of migrants and refugees, and to name the root causes of migration. As the denomination’s October multimedia initiative, the UCC National Collaborative on Immigration has identified goals that also include a commitment to immersion education, and work to stop deportations.

The Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ is hosting the denomination’s delegation, along with Good Shepherd UCC in Sahuarita, Ariz. General Minister and President the Rev. John Dorhauer will be speaking at the bi-national interfaith service and vigil.

“Jesus put his body on the line for the sake of justice and to save others,” said the Rev. William M. Lyons, designated conference minister. “The Southwest Conference is calling the Body of Christ, the Church, to stand on the line between the U.S. and Mexico October 7-10 to bring attention to the injustice of militarizing rather than economically revitalizing our border communities, and who will build bridges rather than walls between privileged and marginalized people.”

“It is important for the United Church of Christ to have a presence at the School of the Americas Watch convergence in Nogales because it allows us to be witnesses to the injustice at the U.S./Mexico border, but it also allows our church to be in solidarity with the throngs of people from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and beyond that have been violently pushed out of their countries of origin and pulled into the United States,” said the Rev. Randy Meyer, pastor of Good Shepherd UCC and member of the UCC’s Collaborative on Immigration. “It doesn’t take a genius to follow the root causes of that push and pull. Without much effort you begin to uncover that the United States has a long history of manipulating foreign economies to its favor while in the same breath propping dictators and their officers who create terror and repression. As people of faith we can no longer stand by as our nation helps ignite the fires that are ravaging Latin America and pushing its humble masses to our border.”

Thousands of people are expected to attend the event, including members of more than a dozen UCC congregations representing six different conferences. A few days before the weekend program, which includes a march to the border wall between the United States and Mexico, the UCC participants will have the opportunity to take part in an immersion experience, with a desert walk with Samaritans, theological reflections on border ministry and a strategic discussion on immigrant justice.

“As a follower of Jesus and faith leader in the United Church of Christ, I am grieved that current U.S. border security policy targets human beings and violates everything I know of what it means to be a Christian,” said Lyons. “If even one person in our land can be targeted or labeled illegal, every person runs the risk of being targeted or labeled illegal. No one should ever be put at such risk.”

“Walls and security will never be the answer to the problems of fear and greed.” said Meyer. “Instead we must search our hearts and recognize our wrongs—and build a world that is free of suffering and violence—a world where all have opportunity.”

Juan Gabriel’s Legacy of Courage

A Catholic priest blesses the statue of late Mexican singer Juan Gabriel during a mass in his honor in Plaza Garibaldi, in Mexico City, Mexico August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

A Catholic priest blesses the statue of late Mexican singer Juan Gabriel during a mass in his honor in Plaza Garibaldi, in Mexico City, Mexico August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

When I asked my best friend in Mexico, a leading member of the Central Christian Church in San Luis Potosí for many years, what he thought of Juan Gabriel, he replied, “Well, I don’t like the fact he’s homosexual, but whenever I hear his song, it’s one of his trademark songs, “Amor Eterno” (“Eternal Love”), I just have to cry.” Hemer then went on to say that the song made him think of his mother and that would lead him to describe her for me. “She was so good and kind; I never could thank her enough.” This was said with a trembling of his chin.

I had read an article on Mexico by Alma Guillermoprieto in The New Yorker magazine years before our move there which led off with a description of the peculiar hold the singer/songwriter had maintained on the Mexican public for a few decades. For the writer of the article, it was Juan Gabriel’s in your face, and yes flamboyant, femininity that intrigued her. In the renowned bastion of machismo that is Mexico, one of the country’s leading celebrities had survived, and thrived even, on his ability to make fun of the sombreroed, booted cowboys who came to his concerts to taunt him. They taunted but no one got the better of him, and his quick wit added to his appeal.

I was fascinated by the article as most Mexicans were fascinated for a very long time by the story and personality of a man who loomed larger on the Mexican cultural landscape than anyone I can think of in the U.S. Juan Gabriel was, one commentator has noted, like Elvis and Frank Sinatra combined. But given the nature of his trajectory from orphaned boy vagabond in Ciudad Juarez to Mexico City stardom at age 21, you’d have to throw in Little Richard and Ray Charles too to approximate Gabriel’s appeal among the Mexican people.

His death last Sunday in Santa Monica, California, the fact he had left his homeland to live in a more open social environment, and the enduring power and popularity of his music throughout Mexico may well contribute to the growing momentum to make gay marriage legal south of the border. That he died living in a rented apartment on the beach in “El Norte” could well force some would-be opponents of this significant social change to remain silent or even support it. No doubt the Catholic Church will be more tactful in their opposition. It seems no one in Mexico wants to be seen as hostile to Juan Gabriel at this time. After all, everyone in the country has a mother.

Postscript from the movie “High Noon” (1952):
“It takes more than big, broad shoulders to make a man Harvey and you Harvey, you are not a man.” Saloon owner Helen Ramirez as played by the Mexican actress Katy Jurado to Deputy Sheriff Harvey Pell (Lloyd Bridges).

Changing Boundary Lines and Borders

U.S.-Mexico border to last "forever" by terms of the 1821 Adams-Onís Treaty

U.S.-Mexico border to last “forever” by terms of the 1821 Adams-Onís Treaty


“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.” Psalm 16:6

Celebrating the increasing cultural diversity of our new environment has helped move me to a new reading and new appreciation of my favorite verse in Psalm 16. Gratitude for the opportunities in Kansas City, heartland of the U.S., to relate to people of diverse cultures – from the Middle East, from Congo, from Mexico – leads Kate and me to contemplate again the real, tangible “boundary lines” and borders of our lives. In serving alongside Disciple and UCC church members in Mexico for three years we experienced many ways that extended the “boundary lines” of our lives as we sought to strengthen ties between churches in the U.S. and Mexico.

In reading verse 6 of Psalm 16 today, “the heritage” I embrace is that of being a Christian concerned about the prospects for full and abundant life of all human beings. In reading the Bible I am now guided by the conviction that the Bible testifies repeatedly to God’s love for ALL people and never should be read as favoring one people over another based on national identity. In a nutshell, the Bible, I now believe, aims to shape and strengthen persons whose fundamental loyalty and identity will be to think and act as “global citizens”.

Reflecting on the changes in the “boundary lines” in my own life has heightened my attention to the changes in the borders of my country and especially the changes in the U.S.-Mexico border.
Two artists, a Mexican and a U.S. citizen, have recently called attention to the redrawing of that border in the negotiations with Spain that resulted in the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1821. The Treaty ceded Spain’s claim to Florida as well as much of the Pacific Northwest to the U.S.

U.S.- Mexico border south of Brookings OR with Monument 1 placed by artists Marcos Ramirez ERRE and David Taylor

U.S.- Mexico border south of Brookings OR with Monument 1 placed by artists Marcos Ramirez ERRE and David Taylor

After undertaking a survey of the 1821 border, the first time it had been formally surveyed, the two artists placed 47 steel obelisks along the 726 mile boundary in towns such as Dodge City, Kansas and Medicine Bow, Wyoming. One of the artists, David Taylor, notes that surveyed borders were the outcome of European settlement in North America. Prior to European immigration to the U.S. “There were transition zones. You left one place and it blended into another” Taylor commented.

Although in Article 3 of the 1821 Adams-Onís Treaty the U.S. agreed that it “renounces all claim to the said Territories FOREVER (my emphasis)”, twenty seven years later Mexico lost a half million square miles of its Territory in the Mexican-American War of 1848. The artists’ “DeLIMITations” project thus reminds us in a dramatic way of what Mexico lost. “So that’s the thing for both of us — let’s mark the wound, let’s make the scar” declared¬¬ the artist Marco Ramirez.

The “DeLIMITATIONS” project also reminds us that both the actual borders between nations and the border policies of nations are in flux today in an increasingly interdependent world. In placing the obelisk of the 1821 Mexico-U.S. border in Dodge City, Kansas the artists learned that the town where “Gunsmoke’s” Sheriff Matt Dillon kept the peace is now 60 per cent Latino. And recent travelers in Europe return with accounts of crossing borders on that continent with no visa requirement.

These developments point to the day when the longest border in the world dividing a rich nation and a developing nation will be viewed very differently by the people of the U.S. and Mexico. The rise of the Latino population in “El Norte” and the more permeable borders in Europe today fuel the hope that historic changes are indeed “erasing borders” throughout the globe.

Make It Stop

The Sig Sauer AR 15 model such as the one used in the Orlando shootings.  John Sommers II photo, Reuters.

The Sig Sauer AR 15 model such as the one used in the Orlando shootings. John Sommers II photo, Reuters.

“They shall wander from sea to sea,
and from north to east,
they shall run to and fro,
seeking the word of the Lord,
but they shall not find it.” Amos 8:12

Last Saturday night June 11, Kate and I sat under a clear sky at Kansas City’s Starlight amphitheater swaying to the mostly familiar words of singer, songwriter Paul Simon and his band. Most of the audience joined in the last song of the second encore, “Sounds of Silence”:

“Silence like a cancer grows,
hear my words that I might teach you,
take my arms that I might reach you,
but my words like silent raindrops fell
and echoed in the wells of silence.”

Three hours after we sang “Sounds of Silence” at the concert, the gruesome siege of party goers exploded on the night in Orlando. As in most of the recent mass murders, the assailant used a military style assault weapon whose sale in the United States is not only legal but on the rise. While sales of other long rifles have risen 3% in recent years, sales of the AR-15 and other “modern sporting rifles” have risen 27%.

For whatever reason – the unprecedented number of victims, the evidence that loathing of gays dominated the perpetrator’s psyche, the steady recurrence of mass shootings making use of such weapons – there is renewed concern in this country over continued marketing and sales of the AR-15 gun model. Re-enacting in Congress the ban which expired in 2004, or passing a stronger ban with fewer loopholes, will not, however, be easy. The National Rifle Association (the NRA), the most powerful lobby working for gun manufacturers and gun retailers, now refers to the AR-15 as “America’s rifle”.

How could this be many of us are asking? How could a rifle which was originally manufactured as the M-16 for soldiers in the Vietnam War now be marketed to and widely purchased by civilians? How could the nation with the largest number of Jesus’ followers permit sales of a weapon which has killed dozens of schoolchildren, movie goers, co-workers and party goers in the last five years?

Sign at the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. Photo by John Lindsay-Poland, Fellowship of Reconciliation

Sign at the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. Photo by John Lindsay-Poland, Fellowship of Reconciliation

But the nearly unfettered sale of assault weapons to civilians in the U.S. may not be so surprising to our friends in Mexico. Since the Mexican Revolution at the turn of the 20th Century, the U.S. has supplied most of the guns for revolutionaries resorting to violence, for the Mexican army and police forces and for our neighbor’s criminals. An estimated seventy percent of the deaths during Mexico’s “drug wars” were due to weapons imported from the north. Signs at the border reminding visitors that it is illegal to bring guns into Mexico are a weak defense against the dangers resulting from Mexico’s proximity to the country which exports far more weapons than any other in the world. The well known saying, “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States” has taken on new weight in the aftermath of 80,000 plus “drug war” victims.

In Mexico, research teams continue to pursue what really happened to the 43 students of Ayotzinapa. In the U.S. we know very well how 49 young people died in the Orlando nightclub. We may never know what primarily drove the killer to act but we know he acted alone that night and we know his primary weapon continues to be advertised using militaristic language like “get your man card” and “the opposition will bow down”. We know that using the AR-15 model Sig Sauer MCX he was able to fire into the night club crowd 24 shots in nine seconds. We know that in 2012 the Newton, Connecticut 20 year old who fired 154 rounds of bullets in less than five minutes in an elementary school killed 20 children and then killed his mother, who had purchased the Remington Bushmaster for him.

Lacking the sweet, high voice of Art Garfunkel at his side, Paul Simon did not sing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” at the concert last Saturday night. But thousands of people this past week in vigils around the world sung the lyrics in solidarity with friends and family members of the Orlando victims:

“When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.”

We who live in and love this country stand in gratitude for the words of solidarity, of comfort and consolation that have been offered by persons worldwide. But after this latest in a long list of horrific acts of violence suffered from San Bernardino to Orlando, from Roseburg, OR to Newton, CT, we also stand in need, seeking “the word of the Lord” for this nation at this time.

Senator Patrick Murphy of Connecticut stood in the U.S. Senate chamber this week speaking for 15 hours before Republicans consented to talks about acting on gun control legislation that remains pending. That legislation has to do primarily with background checks on those purchasing guns. None of it calls for reducing or outlawing sales of military style “modern sporting rifles” within the borders of the United States of America.

Go to
https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/letters/2016/06/16/readers-respond-make-stop/0qYjLSKWW63k8EFS8yoluM/story.html

for an excellent Boston Globe editorial published Thursday, June 16, 2016 titled “Make It Stop”

Muslims and Christians “Together Towards Life”

These days, we in the United States continue to discover new intersections of our personal political positions and our personal theology. In this year’s campaign for President, the issue of immigration policy has taken a new direction with even more obvious theological overtones in the contrasting positions of the two parties on admitting Muslim refugees.

As we approach the presidential election, it is likely that Donald Trump’s opposition to Muslims being admitted into the country will continue to feed the perception that the nation with the most Christians in the world is conducting a war on Islam. Some U.S. Christians counter that perception with action such as helping Syrian refugees resettle in the country (as reported in the last posting of this blog). In our context of xenophobia and fear, such action needs now to be joined by defense of freedom of religion along with declaring trust and respect for adherents of Islam.

It is also important if not urgent for Christians in the U.S. to clarify their views on mission and evangelism in the Muslim world. Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, conservative Christian mission boards in the U.S. had considerably stepped up efforts to convert Muslims overseas to the Christian faith. The Southern Baptist Convention began distribution of a prayer guide in the late 90’s to guide their followers in praying for conversion of Muslims at the same time they considerably increased the number of missionaries being sent to majority Muslim countries such as Kyrgyzstan.

Fortunately, U.S. Christians seeking ways to unite with Muslims in movements of reconciliation and healing worldwide can find guidance and encouragement in the beautiful statement written by the Commission on Mission and Evangelism of the 349 worldwide churches making up the World Council of Churches. Led by a Bishop of the Syrian Orthodox Church, the Commission unequivocally proclaims that the aim of Christian mission and evangelism today is to join with persons of other faith traditions in affirming human life and the whole of creation.

Bishop Mor Coorilos of the Syrian Orthodox Church is Chair of the Commission

Bishop Mor Coorilos of the Syrian Orthodox Church is Chair of the Commission


A summary statement of the Commission’s 2012 document “Together Towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes” declares, “Authentic evangelism is done with respect for freedom of religion and belief, for all human beings as images of God. Proselytism by violent means, economic incentive, or abuse of power is contrary to the message of the gospel. In doing evangelism it is important to build relations of respect and trust between people of different faiths.”

At the beginning of the document, the Commission envisions its task as discerning the implications of the “shift of the centre of gravity of Christianity”. One outcome emphasized is the accompanying “shift in mission concept from ‘mission to the margins’ to ‘mission from the margins’” and the ensuing question of “what then is the distinctive contribution of the people from the margins?”

Living the Christian faith as a minority community on the “margins” leads to some profound reflections on our relationships with persons of other faiths: “Plurality is a challenge to the churches and serious commitment to interfaith dialogue and cross-cultural communication is therefore indispensable. What are the ecumenical convictions regarding common witnessing and practicing life-giving mission in a world of many religions and cultures?”

One conviction that emerged from the Commission’s deliberations is that “mission activity linked with colonization has often denigrated cultures and failed to recognize the wisdom of local people. Local wisdom and culture which are life-affirming are gifts from God’s Spirit.” Christians in mission today who join with “local people”, whatever their faith tradition, in life sustaining and life enhancing actions find that “marginalized people are reservoirs of the active hope, collective resistance, and perseverance that are needed to remain faithful to the promised reign of God”.

Son of a Muslim immigrant bus driver Sadiq Khan has just been elected Mayor of London

Son of a Muslim immigrant bus driver Sadiq Khan has just been elected Mayor of London


In this time of deep division within the two political parties of the United States and within the country itself, the World Council of Churches’ overview of Christian mission and evangelism calls us to a new vision of unity. The document “Together Towards Life” challenges us to include the entire human species in our interpretation and celebration of the familiar words of Psalm 133:

“How very good and pleasant it is/ when kindred live together in unity!” (NRSV version)

Pour la traducción en español du document de la Comisión ver
https://www.oikoumene.org/es/resources/documents/commissions/mission-and-evangelism/together-towards-life-mission-and-evangelism-in-changing-landscapes?set_language=es

For a copy of the “Together Towards Life: Missiona and Evangelism in a Changing Landscape” document go to:
https://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/commissions/mission-and-evangelism/together-towards-life-mission-and-evangelism-in-changing-landscapes

Report from Kansas City / Un Informe de Kansas City

The redbud trees in bloom are among the first signs of spring in Kansas City

The redbud trees in bloom are among the first signs of spring in Kansas City

So lawns are a big deal in Kansas City – no all over the U.S. Midwest wherever you have the four seasons. The hum of lawn mowers calls us to tend to the rapidly growing grass this time of year. But what might be considered an annoying duty is offset by the beauty of forsythia bushes bulging with yellow blooms as redbud, dogwood and wild plum trees also begin to display their colors. On nearly every street, poor neighborhoods and rich, trees are now in bloom. On some streets, one or two neighbors will defy the spring ritual and let their lawns grow with weeds and they too wave purple or yellow flowers in the wind.

It’s amazing what 39 inches of rainfall will do to an environment as opposed to the 15 we’ve been accustomed to in southern CA. But life in general, compared to southern California, is easier here. Above all, there is less struggle due to economic pressures. Here a working class couple can buy a house in a quiet neighborhood twenty to twenty five minutes from downtown even during the rush hour. A similar house that was affordable for them in the Los Angeles area would likely require a two hour drive to reach.

For the wealthy in Kansas City, a short drive from the office downtown will get them to neighborhoods that look like Beverly Hills. The neighbors will more than likely be in the “white” category on the U.S. Census. Ethnic diversity reigns farther out in the newer outlying districts of the City where African Americans and Hispanic Americans, along with the more recent immigrant population, move from the urban core neighborhoods that remain in decline. There are some mostly “white” suburban towns in the Greater Kansas City area but the districts near the city’s borders reflect a rainbow diversity.

Twenty five minutes from downtown, ours is a majority African-American neighborhood with a sizable Arab American presence. The largest mosque among the five in the Kansas City area from our home. This week Kansas City welcomed the first Syrian family to be admitted to the U.S. under a new Obama Administration resettlement program. But in a strange twist they will not be welcomed on the Kansas side of the City.

The Kansas – Missouri border runs north and south through Kansas City and the Kansas Governor Sam Brownback sides with those wanting to bar Muslim immigrants from the U.S. Before the U.S. Civil War, Kansas opposed slavery when Missouri joined the Confederate cause and Kansas led the way in the integration of northern U.S. public schools during the last century. So Governor Brownback’s opposition to Muslim immigrants stands out as a betrayal of his state’s support for equal opportunity and ethnic diversity in the past.

To those who live outside the U.S., this article’s focus on race and ethnicity may appear strange but the current Presidential campaign should help you understand why we in the U.S. are preoccupied with this aspect of social life. Thanks to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, the country’s distrust if not fear of the “other” remains a favored means to gain donations and votes in this country. Like segregation of neighborhoods, public schools and churches in the past, the current efforts to arouse suspicion of Arab immigrants wins votes but goes against the progress of racial equality in Kansas City.

This presidential election year, we can hope that among the 10,000 Syrian immigrants entering the

Syrian refugee family arrives in Kansas City.  Father holds his new baby born in Jordan./La familia siria llega a Kansas City con un bébé nacido en Jordan

Syrian refugee family arrives in Kansas City. Father holds his new baby born in Jordan./La familia siria llega a Kansas City con un bébé nacido en Jordan

U.S. before September 30 will be persons who eloquently remind us of the country’s founding values. As the father of the Syrian family who arrived in Kansas City this week declared, “I am Muslim” and then went on to say, “We are all the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve”.

As for our lawn, it’s doing fine. Last week, a couple of entrepreneurs in their early twenties came by the house and offered their services cutting and edging the grass. That sounded great and the price seemed fair but better yet they threw in a few extras when they mowed for the first time. Unlike California the lawn service workers here usually don’t speak Spanish but with over 50,000 persons who identify themselves as “Hispanic”, there will be plenty of opportunity to keep speaking Spanish.

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Los céspedes son una cosa grande en Kansas City – no mejor dicho por todas partes del Mediooeste estadounidense dondequiera que tenga las cuatro temporadas. El zumbido de cortacéspedes nos llama para tender a la hierba rápidamente creciente en esta época del año. Pero lo que se podría considerar un deber molesto es compensado por la belleza de arbustos de la forsythia que se hinchan con flores amarillas en tanto que redbud, el cornejo y los ciruelos salvajes también comienzan a mostrar sus colores. En casi cada calle, vecindades pobres y ricos, los árboles ya están en la flor. En algunas calles, uno o dos vecinos desafiarán el ritual de la primavera y dejarán a sus céspedes crecer con malas hierbas y en ellas ondan flores moradas o amarillas en el viento.

Asombroso es lo que 39 pulgadas de la lluvia harán a un ambiente a diferencia de los 15 a los cuales hemos sido acostumbrados en California del sur. Mas la vida en general, comparado con la del sur de California, es más fácil aquí. Sobre todo, la lucha debido a presiones económicas es menos pesada. Aquí una pareja de la clase obrera puede comprar una casa en una vecindad tranquila veinte a veinticinco minutos del centro de la cuidad aún en la hora de mayor tránsito. Una tal casa que sería económica para ellos en la región de Los Ángeles requeriría mas o menos un paseo de dos horas alcance.

Para los ricos en Kansas City, un paseo corto del centro de la cuidad los conseguirá a vecindades que parecen a Beverly Hills. Los vecinos estarán más que probablemente en la categoría “blanca” en el Censo estadounidense. La diversidad étnica reina más lejos en los distritos periféricos más nuevos de la Ciudad en donde los afroamericanos y los americanos hispanos, junto con la población inmigrante más reciente, se mueven de las vecindades principales urbanas que permanecen en la decadencia. Hay algunas ciudades suburbanas generalmente blancas en la área al margen de Kansas City pero los distritos cerca de las fronteras de la ciudad reflejan una diversidad del arco iris.

Veinticinco minutos del centro de la cuidad, la nuestra es una vecindad afroamericana de la mayoría mas con una presencia árabe americana importante. La mezquita más grande entre los cinco en la área de Kansas City se ubica de poca distancia de nuestra casa. Esta semana Kansas City dió la bienvenida a la primera familia Siria para ser admitida a los Estados Unidos según un nuevo programa en favor de refugiados Sirios de la Administración de Obama. Pero en una torcedura extraña no serán dados la bienvenida por el estado de Kansas.

La frontera de los estados Kansas y Misuri corre del norte al sur a través de Kansas City y el gobernador de Kansas Sam Brownback dió apoyo con los que quieren excluir a inmigrantes musulmanes de los Estados Unidos. Curioso que antes de la guerra civil estadounidense, Kansas se opusó a la esclavitud cuando Misuri se afilió a la causa Confederada y Kansas sirvió como modelo en la integración de escuelas públicas estadounidenses del norte durante el siglo pasado. Por tanto la oposición del gobernador Brownback a inmigrantes musulmanes se destaca como una traición del apoyo de su estado a igualdad de oportunidades y diversidad étnica en el pasado.

A aquellos que viven fuera de los Estados Unidos, atender como un enfoque de este artículo en la pertenencia étnica puede parecer extraña pero la campaña presidencial corriente le debería ayudar a entender por qué en los Estados Unidos somos preocupados por este aspecto de la vida social. Gracias a Donald Trump y Ted Cruz, la desconfianza del país si no el miedo del “otro” permanece como un medio favorecido de ganar donaciones y votos en este país. Como la segregación de vecindades, escuelas públicas e iglesias en el pasado, los esfuerzos actuales de despertar sospechas de inmigrantes árabes si ganan votos pero van en contra del progreso de la igualdad racial en Kansas City y en la nación.

Este año de eleccion presidenciale, se puede esperar que entre los 10,000 inmigrantes sirios que entran en los Estados Unidos antes del 30 de septiembre sea personas que elocuentemente nos recuerdan de los valores básicos del país. Como el padre de la familia siria que llegó a Kansas City esta semana declaró, “Soy musulmán” y luego siguió a decir, “Somos todos los hijos y las hijas de Adán y Eva”.

En cuanto a nuestro césped, todo muy bien. La semana pasada, un par de empresarios en sus años veinte pasaron por la casa y ofrecieron el servicio de mantenimiento de la hierba. Ese pareció perfecto y el precio pareció justo pero todavía aún más arrojaron en algunos extras cuando cortaron el césped por primera vez. A diferencia de California aquí los trabajadores de servicio de céspedes generalmente no hablan español, pero con más de 50.000 personas de Kansas City que se identifican a sí mismos como “hispanos”, habrá un montón de oportunidades para seguir hablando español.

A Life Transformed/ Una Vida Transformada

Hemer Ernesto Sierra Silva of San Luis Potosi, SLP México, 1934 - 2016

Hemer Ernesto Sierra Silva of San Luis Potosi, SLP México, 1934 – 2016

“Mejor tener un amigo que un peso en el bolsillo” – “it’s better to have a friend than a peso in the pocket” stands out now as among Hemer Ernesto Sierra Silva’s favorite sayings.  And he had a couple of stories to back up the wisdom it conveyed.

Hemer loved to tell the stories – of living on a farm in Oklahoma while a student, of working on Brach’s Candies assembly line in Chicago, of his childhood favorites among the local dishes of Hidalgo and the Huasteca in San Luis Potosí.  His favorite story, the one he loved to tell strangers at least once and friends many times over, recounted his transformation as the son of a Communist school teacher father and a devout Catholic mother to a personal journey with Jesus as an evangelical Protestant.

Here it is, told in his words, as he wrote them down for our blog posting in February 2014.  It is in essence Hemer’s testimony of how he came to live such a long life with fragile health, serving his church and his community with lots of effort and firm opinions shared with a gentle, loving spirit.  During our last visit with him in January he assured us he was ready to accept –once again!- God’s will for his life and we of course believed him.  He died this morning of March 23 at age 81 in his bed with his beloved Marisela and all the children near him.

“As the firewood crackled and warmed the cool, spring night, we youth that had gathered in the circle around the fire listened to the powerful voice of the great missionary, writer and magnificent preacher Frederick Huegel (whose son John with family also served with the Mexican Disciples, ed.). I had accepted the invitation of my friend in the State Public High Schol, Miguel Gallegos, with whom I had had many deep conversations about the Christian faith. Our talks had sown questions, concerns and doubts that I wanted to explore.

My religious advisor with the Catholic Youth Association at that time, Olegario N., never had been able to respond in a satisfactory way to my questions about the numerous statues Catholics worshipped, why we would confess to another person and other questions. I was sixteen years old and Huentepec ( in those days held at the Disciples training center outside Aguascalientes ed. ) was the ideal setting to inspire in me the decision that would would completely change my life’s course.

The preacher’s voice urged us to walk with Jesus and with pounding heart and my mind and spirit fully convinced and then driven as though by a powerful force I stood up and then and there accepted Jesus as my sole and sufficient Personal Savior, my Redeemer and my intercessor with the Lord. This chain of events, my doubts about my faith, my attending Huentepec Camp that year with its unique atmosphere, the inspiration of meeting missionaries in attendance like Paul Kepple, Miss Leila Callender and others, all this combined for an impact that makes Huentepec carry for me the meaning of “to leave behind the old ways and become a new person”.

Everything in my life changed for the good after that night at Huentepec; I was converted and then baptized in my “Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)”. It was in Central Christian San Luis Potosi that I had the good fortune to meet my wife and companion of more than 50 years and other good and beloved life long friends. There I met the missionary with a great heart named Guy Mantle ( uncle of the famous Mickey Mantle) who helped me to study in the university in the States on a Presidential Scholarship. He also personally supported me financially at times and thanks to him I was able to earn the degree for the career that I had always dreamed about.

It would make for a much longer article if I wrote of all the blessings that originated with the great event of my life that took place at the Huentepec Camp. So I give many thanks to the Lord for the Disciples Church that continues to organize this event for the youth today.

May the Lord bless you all.”

Hemer's children - Cindy, Ernesto and Eddie - have all participated in Huentepec Camp held anually in the week between Christmas and New Year's. Ernesto met his wife, a member of the Disciples' Guadalajara Church, at the Camp.

Hemer’s children – Cindy, Ernesto and Eddie – have all participated in Huentepec Camp held anually in the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Ernesto met his wife, a member of the Disciples’ Guadalajara Church, at the Camp.

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“Se oía el crujido de los leños que alimentaban con su calor  la fresca noche de Primavera y a los jóvenes que estábamos alrededor de ella nos invitaba a oír la potente voz del gran misionero ,escritor y magnifico predicador, Federico Huegel. Había yo aceptado la invitación de mi compañero en la Escuela Normal Estatal, Miguel Gallegos con quien había  yo tenido muchas controversias religiosas  y quien había sembrado en mi ser tantas inquietudes y dudas, que acepté con gusto su invitación para ir a Huentepec; mi Asesor religioso de la ACJM ( Asociación Católica de Jóvenes Mexicanos) Olegario N. nunca pudo contestar a  plena satisfacción mis múltiples dudas ( Los innumerables ídolos y la confesión ante un hombre ,etc )

Tenia yo 16 años y Huentepc (luego ubicado al sitio de la Granja Huentepec de los Discipulos a las orillas de la ciudad de  Aguacalientes, ed.)  era un lugar ideal para que en una noche estrellada tomara yo la decisión que cambio por completo el rumbo de mi vida; la voz del predicador nos invitaba a caminar con Jesús y con mi corazón latiendo fuertemente, mi mente y mi espíritu plenamente convencidos y como impulsado por un potente resorte me paré y ahí  acepté a Jesús como mi  Único y Suficiente Salvador Personal , mi Redentor y mi  intercesor con el Señor.

Esta cadena de hechos, mis dudas, mi aceptación para asistir  a Huentepec,  la atmosfera  única en que se desarrollaba  el Campamento, la presencia  tan inspiradora  de los misioneros que conocí ahí Paul Kepple, Miss Leila Callender, etc. todo esto en conjunto influyeron tanto en mi vida que para mi la palabra Huentepec, significa “dejar  atrás el hombre viejo y ser un hombre nuevo”. Todo en mi vida cambió para bien, me convertí y me bautice en MI “IGLESIA CRISTIANA  DISCIPULOS DE CRISTO”.

Ahí tuve la dicha de conocer a mi esposa y compañera de mas de 50 años, a muy buenos y queridos amigos de toda la vida, ahí conocí a un misionero de un gran corazón, Guy Mantle ( tío del famoso beisbolista Micky Mantle). quien obtuvo para mi la beca “Presidential Scholarship  ” ,fue mi aval financiero, y gracias a él obtuve  el titulé en la carrera en la que siempre soñé.

Seria muy largo enumerar TODAS las Bendiciones que derivan  del gran evento en mi vida que es  haber asistido a mi querido e inolvidable Campamento “HUENTEPEC” , le doy muchas Gracias al Señor por que nuestra Iglesia organiza este evento .

Que el Señor los bendiga.

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July 2015 with Hemer, Marisela and two of their children at Central Christian Church San Luis Potosí.

Drum Beat of the Congo

U.S. non governmental organization Jewish Worldwatch is calling on the US government to impose sanctions on the current Congo adminstration for dragging its feet on presidential election preparations.

U.S. non governmental organization Jewish Worldwatch is calling on the US government to impose sanctions on the current Congo administration for dragging its feet on presidential election preparations.

As many of you know, one of the writers of the “Erasing Borders” blogs, Doug Smith, spent two years as a Global Ministries “Fraternal Worker” in the Congo (Kinshasa).  While that was more than forty years ago, Doug has kept in touch and followed events in Congo since then, especially after a summer long return visit in 2010.

In view of the importance of the Presidential election mandated by the nation’s constitution this year, I plan to resume publishing reports and commentary on developments in Congo church and society at the blog https://lokoleyacongo.wordpress.com.  Yesterday, my first blog in nearly four years was published at the site under the title “The March of the Christians”.  The blog name refers to the “talking drum of the Congo” or “lokoleyaCongo” – as named by one of the many native Congo languages – that is heard still in Mbandaka,  capital of Equateur Province and headquarters of the Disciples of Christ of Congo.

We hope that some of you who have read “Erasing Borders” from time to time will want to check in on “lokoleyacongo”.  Those who do will sometimes find references to our experience in Mexico or mention of new developments there as they parallel or help shed light on what is going on in Africa.  This was the case yesterday as a comparison was made between the Pope’s prophetic critique of “elites” in Mexico this week and his pronouncements during his visits in Africa, but not Congo!, last November.

The archives of “Erasing Borders” can be read in the future at this address.  Perhaps some of the contents will be helpful to those who plan visits in Mexico or seek better understanding and deeper appreciation of the culture of neighbors in the U.S.  We are grateful to Word Press for its help in our writings and for preserving them here.  A Dios sea la honra y la gloria!

 

“For Esmé -“

A quinceñara celebration of the 15th birthday whose memories will last a lifetime/ Los recuerdos de la celeberación de la quinceñara duran toda la vida

A quinceñara celebration of the 15th birthday whose memories will last a lifetime/ Los recuerdos de la celebración de la quinceñara duran toda la vida

The following was written after returning to San Luis Potosí to celebrate the quinceñara of the daughter of friends who pastor one of the Disciples churches in the City. A video of one of the highlights of our visit can be seen at  https://vimeo.com/152781074  .  It projects the “Sound and Light” show in one of the 17th century plazas of San Luis which attracts hordes and makes for a wonderful public spectacle during the Christmas season and after as well as Holy Week and beyond.

“Dear Friend:   We are eating at your favorite seafood restaurant here in Laredo.  The crossing this time took longer than usual getting our car import deposit back but for a Monday holiday in the States two hours doesn’t seem excessive at all.”  Just after being seated, Kate sent that text to a woman in San Luis Potosí whose home and family have just hosted us – for nearly three weeks.

“I’m Esmé and I’ll be serving you” our waitress in her early twenties with boldly traced red lips, a moony luminescent face and close cropped copper hair offers.  We order something to drink and when she brings the water her name tag is visible except for the “m”.  “They say my father gave me the name” she replies to our inquiry.  What’s the movie with the main character named Esmeralda I ask myself as her reply also brings up the question of why the name is so uncommon among native English speakers in the U.S.

“It was a delight having you here to celebrate the new year with us” is the response from the San Luis friend’s phone. Her husband should now be in Mexico City finally getting the treatment the doctors have talked about for five months now.  The U.S. is not the only country where health care is being rationed out these days.  There are just so many people.

The girl Esmé returns with a nervous smile and wants to know if we’re ready.  After ordering I can’t resist asking if she has ever read the great Salinger story “For Esmé – With Love and Squalor” and when she says no I promise the name of the short story collection when she brings the food.  The calamari is deliciously fried – in the batter of the muffins apparently.  Very tasty Kate and I agree.

“Nine Stories is the book’s name, a really great story” I repeat, to which she responds that she’ll look for the book.  Kate returns to that afternoon’s remembrance of the young man hanging from the bridge overpass at the border crossing in Laredo when we crossed the day before the new year.  The news at that time had not yet been captured by the announcement of the re-arrest of the most renowned criminal in the Western Hemisphere and his return to a Mexico City jail.  And the subsequent news surrounding the revelation that his capture was due not so much to the savvy of the Mexican Navy as it was to the man’s contacts with a soap opera star whom he hoped would star in the movie about his life.

“What would you have said to the man on the bridge?” Kate muses.  It seems like an apt question for a missionary on either side of the border.  “Why do you want to do this?” she imagines saying.  The incident had closed both sides of the freeway and there were video cameras on the corners.  “If all you want to do is attract attention to yourself that’s hardly worth serious injury or death” Kate adds.  We had agreed that afternoon that the height of the bridge would not ensure the man’s death had he jumped.

After we’ve finished our meal, Esmé says, “It’s such a common name around here” and goes on to mention the girl in her class who had the same last name and adds, “That would have been a real problem had I not used my middle name. My grandmother chose that name for me.” Doug recalls that Jael, the middle name, is from the Bible character who drives a stake through the enemy general’s skull after wooing him with wine and dance.  “Now she had some ‘cojones’” we agree.

Esme’s father is an engineer working for Coca Cola “across” as she puts it until later adding “in Piedras Negras”.  “They wanted to transfer him to San Antonio but his English just isn’t good enough.”  She explains, “He knows a lot but he’s too shy with it”.  A conversation regarding Kate’s struggles with the language leads to Esmé commenting on the difficulty she has in reading Spanish, her first language.  “I read it aloud until I can make the connection between the print on the page and the language I’ve spoken all my life” she says.  When Esmé reminds us before we leave, “My name is Esmé in case you want to visit” it seems like yet another language she is speaking.

Salinger’s story is centered on the soldier’s memory of finding a German POW’s paperback in which is written the Dostoyevsky quote, “Hell is not being able to love”.  It’s a good story to read in English or Spanish.

More on the Fiesta de Luz in SLP can be found in the post "Prayers of Light" from 1/06/15 on this blog/Ver mas de la Fiesta de Luz en SLP en el articulo "Oraciones de Luz" de la fecha 06/01/15 de este blog

More on the Fiesta de Luz in SLP can be found in the post “Prayers of Light” from 1/06/15 on this blog/Ver mas de la Fiesta de Luz en SLP en el articulo “Oraciones de Luz” de la fecha 06/01/15 de este blog

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Lo siguiente fue escrito después de volver a San Luis Potosí para celebrar el quinceñara de la hija de amigos quien pastorea a una de las iglesias de los Discípulos en la Ciudad. Uno de las experiencias sobresalientes de la visita se puede ver en el video puesto en:

El vídeo breve se trata de la “Fiesta de Luz” en una de las plazas  del siglo XVII de San Luis que atrae multitudes y hace un maravilloso espectáculo público durante la temporada de Navidad así como en Semana Santa y unos días mas.

Justo después de estar sentado en el restaurante, Kate envió un texto a una mujer en San Luis Potosí cuyo hogar y familia nos han acogido durante casi tres semanas.   “Querida amiga:  Comemos en su restaurante de mariscos favorito aquí en Laredo. La travesía esta vez tomó más tiempo que de costumbre para el regreso de nuestro depósito de importación de coches pero después de un week end con día fería en los Estados Unidos dos horas no parecen excesivas”.

“Soy Esmé y les serviré” nuestra camarera en sus años veinte con labios rojos vigorosamente remontados, una cara luminiscente divertida con pelo de color cobre.  Pedimos algo de beber y cuando nos trae el agua su nombre en la etiqueta es visible excepto el “m”. “Dicen que mi padre me dío el nombre” responde ella a nuestra pregunta.  Que es la película con el protagonista principal del mismo nombre de Esmeralda me pregunto al momento que su respuesta se levanta también la pregunta de por qué el nombre es tan poco común entre “los Anglos” en los Estados Unidos.

“Fue un placer que estuvieron aquí para celebrar el año nuevo con nosotros” el texto del teléfono de la amiga cuya casa acabamos de dejar. Su marido debería estar ahora en la Ciudad de México finalmente consiguiendo el tratamiento del cual los médicos estaban hablando durante ya cinco meses. Los Estados Unidos no es el único país donde la asistencia médica está siendo racionada estos días. Hay tantas personas a atender.

La señorita Esmé vuelve con una sonrisa nerviosa y quiere saber si estamos listos. Después de pedir la comida no puedo resistir a preguntar si ha leído alguna vez la historia hermosa de Salinger “Para Esmé – Con Amor y Miseria” y cuando nos dice que no yo prometo el nombre de la colección de cuentos cuando nos trae el alimento.  El calamar se sabe delicioso frito en la masa de las magdalenas al parecer. “Muy sabroso” Kate y yo nos acordamos.

“Nueve Historias es el título del libro, un cuento hermoso” repito cuando dice ella que buscará el libro. Kate vuelve a la conversación de la tarde sobre el joven que estaba amenazando de brincar del puente de la carretera a la  frontera en Laredo cuando nos cruzamos el día antes del nuevo año. Las noticias entonces todavía no habían sido capturadas por el anuncio de la nueva detención del criminal más renombrado en el Hemisferio Occidental y su vuelta a su cárcel en la Ciudad de México. Y las noticias subsecuentes que rodean la revelación que su captura era debida no tanto a la Marina mexicana como era a los contactos del hombre con una estrella de telenovela a quien esperó el que protagonizaría en una película sobre su vida.

“¿Qué habrías dicho al hombre en el puente?” Kate reflexiona en voz alta. Parece a una pregunta apropiada para un misionero a ambos lados de la frontera. “¿Por qué quiere hacer esto?” se imagina ella diciendo al joven. El incidente había cerrado ambos lados de la autopista sin peaje y habían cámaras de vídeo en las esquinas. “Si todo que quiere hacer es llamar la atención a si mismo apenas valdría unos lesiones graves o aún la muerte” Kate agrega. Habíamos estado de acuerdo esa tarde que la altura del puente no aseguraría la muerte del hombre si había saltado.

Después de que hemos terminado nuestra comida, Esmé dice, “está tal nombre común por aquí” y menciona a la muchacha en su clase que tiene el mismo nombre y añade, “Esto habría sido un verdadero problema si no había usado mi segundo nombre. Mi abuelita me lo dío.”  Doug menciona que Jael, el segundo nombre, es del carácter de la Biblia quien martilla una estaca a través del cráneo del general enemigo de los Israelitas después de cortejarle con vino y baile. “Es cierto que ella tenía ‘cojones’ estamos de acuerdo.

El padre de Esmé es un ingeniero que trabaja para la Coca-Cola “a través” declara ella hasta la adición posterior “en Piedras Negras”. “Quisieron transferirle a San Antonio pero su inglés no alcanza”. Explica ella, “El sabe mucho pero se presenta demasiado tímido con ello”. Una conversación en cuanto a las luchas de Kate con la lengua lleva a que Esmé comenta sobre la dificultad que tiene en la lectura de español, su primera lengua. “La leo en voz alta hasta que pueda hacer la conexión entre la letra en la página y la idioma que he hablado toda mi vida” dice.

Cuando Esmé nos recuerda antes de que nos vayamos, “Mi nombre es Esmé por si quiera visitar” parece a aún otra idioma que habla.  El cuento de Salinger se centra en la memoria del soldado del descubrimiento en un campo de concentración el  libro de un POW alemán en la cual es escrito la cita de Dostoyevsky, “El infierno es la incapacidad de amar”. Es una historia buena para leer en inglés o español.

 

 

On “Discerning the Body”/”Discerniendo el Cuerpo”

Durante mas de cien años se celebra la Santa Cena en la primera iglesia de los Discipulos de Cristo localizada a Bolenge, Congo

For over one hundred years the Lord’s Supper has been celebrated in the first Disciple church in Bolenge, Congo (DRC) with more than 700,000 Disciples members today /Durante mas de cien años se celebra la Santa Cena en la primera iglesia de los Discipulos de Cristo localizada a Bolenge, Congo en donde hoy en dia siete cientos mil Discipulos habitan

“For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.”  I CO 11:29

As we look back and speak about our nearly three years of serving with Disciples and Congregational churches in Mexico,  we recall how some familiar passages of scripture took on new meaning and more weight.  Reading the New Testament in Spanish for the first time,  Gl 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens and in this way fulfill the law of Christ” struck me in a way I had never experienced.  The passion of the woman who anointed Jesus with the expensive ointment, told of in all the Gospels, became for me the standard of the “cheerful giver”.  But the passage that will continue to challenge me most forcefully is the one cited above underlining the importance of “discerning the body”.

The Disciples conclude a Church Assembly with the Lord's Supper/La Santa Cena concluye la Asamblea de las Iglesias en San Luis Potosí

The Disciples conclude a Church Assembly with the Lord’s Supper/La Santa Cena concluye la Asamblea de las Iglesias Discipulos en San Luis Potosí

The enthusiastic, warm reception given us by church members in Mexico led me early in our stay to Paul’s urging the Corinthian to participate in a “worthy manner” in the Lord’s Supper.  It seemed clear to us both that our hosts’ love and trust of us had to be attributed above all to our representing the body of believers as it exists outside their own country.  Their welcome became linked with Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians, and my first sermons in Mexico touched on the several varying interpretations of this passage.

Dedicated like Paul, in our charge as missionaries, to strengthening ties between churches in very different cultural and political settings, I discarded the traditional interpretation of I CO 11:29 as referring to the tortured and crucified body of Jesus.  In fact, I came to see the passage as defining, like no other, the role of the missionary in our time.  While he gently invites the churches in Asia Minor to demonstrate solidarity with Christians suffering from hunger in II CO 8 and 9 and elsewhere, in this passage Paul emphatically declares that the inclusive, universal nature of the Lord’s feast must be honored by all who participate.

With Paul’s admonition in mind, as bridge people furthering understanding and relationships between Christians in the sending and the host countries, a guiding principal of the missionary task becomes helping “to the ends of the earth” brothers and sisters in Christ in their “discerning the body”.  To accept this interpretaton of the CO 11:29 text and accept the charge as a priority of the job description hardly makes the task of the missionary any easier.

It does in my experience make the job harder.  For what in actual practice does Paul have in mind?  Does “discerning

The bread and the cup in the new Igliesia Adulam in San Luis/ El pan y la copa en la nueva Iglesia Adulam en San Luis. Photo de Rev. Jerri Handy

The bread and the cup in the new Igliesia Adulam in San Luis/ El pan y la copa en la nueva Iglesia Adulam en San Luis. Photo de Rev. Jerri Handy

the body” call for material aid in times of crisis like the famine in Roman-ruled Israel/Palestine that Paul focused on in his later Asian journeys?  Does it call for vigorous support of a free and fair election of a President in the Congo next year?  Does it rebuke our failure as Christians in the U.S. to listen to and be guided by the opposition of Christians (four per cent of the population) in Iraq to our occupation of their country in 2001?  Does giving priority to such questions constitute what “discerning the body” means?

As the exchanges and interactions of the world’s peoples continue to multiply and break down barriers and borders, there will emerge new and different interpretations and experiences of Paul’s vision of the universal church.  The work of existing institutions like the World Council of Churches may become more prominent in facilitating communication and understanding among the world’s Christians.  What we do know is that we have a long way to go in really listening and responding in relationships of equality and partnership even to those Christians with whom we share historic ties formed during the early mission era.

After spending two months among the Disciples in San Luis Potosí this year, a life long church member and the son of missionaries, declared, “For the first time, I feel like I now know what it means to be part of the universal church”.  So what will it take for more members of local congregations in the U.S. to “know what it means to be part of universal church”? We can lift up far away churches in our prayers, with our offerings and by welcoming missionaries to share their experience.  But is that all that our practice of “discerning the body” requires?  I don’t think so and the nature of the Lord’s Supper convinces me there has to be more.

Central Christian Church in San Luis Potosí, México celebrates U.S. Disciples Week of Compassion relief and development fund/Honran Disciplus en San Luis Potosí el fondo humanitario de los Discipulos en los EEUA

Central Christian Church in San Luis Potosí, México celebrates U.S. Disciples Week of Compassion relief and development fund/Honran Disciplus en San Luis Potosí el fondo humanitario de los Discipulos en los EEUA

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“Porque el que come y bebe indignamente, sin discernir el cuerpo del Señor, juicio come y bebe para sí.”  I CO 11:29

Hablando en unas iglesias en “el norte” de nuestros casi tres años de servir con Iglesias Discípulos de Cristo y Congregacionales de México,  nos recordamas cómo algunos conocidos pasajes de la escritura sagrada llevaba un impacto nuevo y más pesado. Por ejemplo, leyendo el Nuevo Testamento en español por primera vez, Gl 6:2 “llevar las cargas de los otros y de esta manera cumplir con la ley de Cristo” me llamó la atención de una manera que nunca había experimentado. La pasión de la mujer que ungió a Jesús con ungüento costoso, contado en todos los evangelios, se convirtió para mí en el estándar de “dador alegre”. Pero el pasaje que me desafíaba con más fuerza es la citada subrayando la importancia de “discernir el cuerpo”.

La recepción entusiasta y cálida nos dada por miembros de las iglesias en México me recordó a principios de nuestra

Preparando la celebración de la Santa Cena en la Primera Iglesia Discipulos de Cristo de Mesa, Arizona

Preparing for Communion at First Christian Church in Mesa, AZ/ Preparando la celebración de la Santa Cena en la Primera Iglesia Discipulos de Cristo de Mesa, Arizona

estancia de las instrucciones de Pablo sobre la participación en una “forma digna” en la cena del Señor. Nos pareció claro a nosotros dos que el amor y confianza de nuestros anfitriones fue debido al hecho que representabamos el cuerpo de Cristianos como existe fuera de su propio país.  Su acogida calurosa me tocó al punto que mis primeros sermones en México se enfocaron en las varias interpretaciones diferentes de este pasaje.

Dedicada como Paul, en nuestro cargo como misioneros, a fortalecer los vínculos entre las iglesias en muy diferentes contextos culturales y políticos, descarta la interpretación tradicional del 11:29 referiendose al cuerpo torturado y crucificado de Jesús. De hecho, llegué a ver el pasaje como describiendo, como ningún otro, el papel del misionero en nuestro tiempo. Pablo invita suavamente a las iglesias en Asia para demostrar solidaridad con los cristianos que sufren de hambre en II Co. 8 y 9 y en otros pasajes, en esta occasion de I CO Paul enfáticamente declara que la naturaleza inclusiva y universal de la fiesta del Señor debe ser honrada por todos los que participen.

Con advertencia de Paul en la mente, y como una persona funcionando como puente en promoviendo el entendimiento y las relaciones entre los cristianos en los países enviando y recibiendo a los misioneros, una guía principal de la tarea misionera llega a ser el ayudar “a los confines de la tierra” hermanos y hermanas en Cristo en su «discernir el cuerpo”. Para aceptar esta interpretación del texto de I CO 11:29 y aceptar una tal carga como una prioridad del trabajo del misionero no facilita la tarea en ningún modo. Al contrario, en mi experiencia lo rinde el trabajo más difícil.

Pastor Saúl Zambrano preside en la celebración de la Iglesia Congregacionale en Autlan, Jalisco/ Rev. Saúl Zambrano presides at the Table in the Congregational Church of Autlan, Jalisco

Pastor Saúl Zambrano preside en la celebración de la Iglesia Congregacionale en Autlan, Jalisco/ Rev. Saúl Zambrano presides at the Table in the Congregational Church of Autlan, Jalisco

¿Por lo que en la práctica tiene Paul en mente con el “discernir el cuerpo”? ¿Es proveer ayuda en lo material en tiempos de crisis como la hambruna en Israel y Palestina bajo el imperio Romano como Pablo enfatizó en sus posteriores viajes asiáticos? ¿Llamar por un apoyo vigoroso en el año que viene de una elección libre y justa de un Presidente en el Congo (donde sirven mas de 700,000 miembros de Iglesias Discipulos de Cristo)? ¿Reprender a nuestro fracaso como cristianos en los Estados Unidos para escuchar y dejarse guiar por la oposición de los cristianos (cuatro por ciento de la población) de Irak a nuestra ocupación de su país en 2001? ¿Dando prioridad a estas cuestiones y respondiendo con actos constituye lo que “discernir el cuerpo” significa?

Como los intercambios y las interacciónes de los pueblos del mundo siguen multiplicándose y rompiendo barreras y fronteras, por cierto se surgirán nuevas y diferentes interpretaciónes y experiencias de la visión de Paul de la Iglesia universal. Los esfuerzos de las instituciones existentes como el Consejo Mundial de Iglesias pueden volverse más prominente en facilitar la comunicación y la comprensión entre los cristianos de todo el mundo. Lo que sí sabemos es que tenemos un largo camino por recorrer para realmente escuchar y responder de las relaciones de igualdad y asociación incluso a los cristianos con quienes compartimos lazos históricos formados durante la era temprana de la misión.

Después de pasar dos meses entre los discípulos de San Luis Potosí este año, un miembro de los Discipulos en los EEUA y el hijo de misioneros, declaró, “Por primera vez, me siento como ahora sé lo que significa ser parte de la Iglesia universal”. ¿Que se necesita para más miembros de las congregaciones locales en los Estados Unidos que se sienten “lo que significa ser parte de la Iglesia universal”? Podemos pedir intercesión para iglesias lejanas en nuestras oraciones, proporcionar auxilio con nuestras ofrendas y dar la oportunidad a misioneros para compartir su experiencia dentro de nuestras congregaciones. ¿Pero es todo lo que nuestra práctica de “discernir el cuerpo” requiere? No lo creo y me convence la practica de la cena del Señor tiene que haber más.