The Common Good

An Easter Sermon: Immigration’s Winter and Spring

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain the resurrection of the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11

Photo licensed by SEIU / © 2010 Shell Photographics
SB1070 protest in 2010 in Phoenix. Photo licensed by SEIU / © 2010 Shell Photographics / Flickr.com

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Harsh winters make us more deeply appreciative of spring. Last week, after a particularly intense winter, it finally reached 60 degrees in New York. I, for one, celebrated heartily. Spring is a reminder that winter is not interminable and flowers will bloom again. Almost exactly one year ago, the Senate released a bipartisan bill on immigration reform. Many Christian leaders celebrated the possibility that finally the nearly 11 million men, women, and children would be afforded the opportunity to integrate into this great country. In addition, in January the GOP released a set of principles that set the tone for the genuine possibility for immigration reform. There was a growing consensus that this is the year for immigration reform. Then the news started to change and many prognosticators said, “Immigration reform is dead.”

It is into this public eulogy of immigration reform that the Christian message of Lent and Easter can breathe new life. The significance of Lent and Easter cannot be overstated. Lent and Easter embrace the dialectic of life and death. One of my favorite preachers, Dr. Gardner Taylor, eloquently summarized, “From our birth, we are all wrapped in this cocoon of living and dying.” Lent is the season in which Christians pray, meditate, and worship with thanksgiving that it is the sacrificial love of Christ that prepares the way for the Resurrection. In short, Resurrection presupposes death. Lent is not a romanticizing of death so much as a realistic look at our humanity, our finitude, and our creatureliness. On Ash Wednesday I and hundreds of pastors around the world, proclaimed, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” We proclaim this not as a resignation but as a statement of solidarity — in the words of Scripture, “sharing in the fellowship of suffering.”

“Immigration reform is dead,” understandably strikes anxiety and fear into the thousands of families who live under the specter of deportation and family separation. Winter again unleashed; yet another snowstorm or Noreaster. We sit “in this fellowship of suffering,” in the penumbra of despair. It is as if we can hear a chorus of witnesses speak of the cross of Christ and our anxious waiting in analogous tones. Bonhoeffer’s, The Cross of Christ and the Remembrance of the Dead, articulates our paradox.

Truly despair would surround us if the Word of Christ were not here: ‘When all

this happens to you, look up and do not be afraid. All this must happen first. . . God’s way

in the world leads to the cross and through the cross to life. Therefore, do not be afraid; fear not,

be faithful.’ ”

For all who have heard the death-knell of righteous movements have also wrestled with “despair of death.” Lent calls us to stay faithful when the circumstances seem insurmountable. Christianity is not a Disney Story; the specter of death is real and should not be ignored. Faithfulness is a response rooted in the reality of death and the hope of the resurrection. Every week as I meet with families who desperately want to rise from the shadows of a broken immigration system, I weep. Still I remain faithful to the work of resurrection. Winter is NOT eternal! God’s word IS eternal!

Resurrection hope is not just an eschatological vision; it is an ethical imperative to a faithful proclamation of resurrection. Here Bonhoeffer again,

What is meant here by being faithful as a congregation of Christ is namely: to be in

this furious storm event to exhaustion, even to vexation, even to the call of martyrdom

for the Word of Christ, so that there will be peace, so that there will be love, so that there

will be salvation…”

Because God raised a Crucified-Christ from the dead we are called to be a resurrection people. Resurrection people must first engage in the fellowship of the suffering. We cannot ignore the cross of Christ, or the crosses of millions who only look for a second-chance a glimpse of redemption. Our teologia-crucis does not allow us to skip to an empty tomb without embracing a bloody cross. The bloody cross does not lead to nihilism, surrender, or hiding to a recondite cave of inaction. No! For Lent and Easter are both powerful reminders of both God’s empathy and God’s power. That same power acts in us. For each of us, every immigrant, parent, parishioner, and pastor who’s heard “immigration is dead” remember, “where the cross stands, the resurrection is near.” Be faithful in the midst of despair call tirelessly for a new way. Speak life! Resurrection Sunday is coming!

Rev. Gabriel Salguero is the pastor of the Lamb’s Church of the Nazarene in New York City, a Ph.D. candidate at Union Theological Seminary, and the director of the Hispanic Leadership Program at Princeton Theological Seminary. He is also a Sojourners board member.

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