A Message from Dr. Tim Bruster

By February 3, 2017Reflections

Tim BrusterFriends,

I begin my weekly blog with a topic that, while made political (along with everything else in today’s climate!) is, in reality, a humanitarian issue. Today my heart is heavy for the plight of those separated from their families, those unable to realize a dream, and those who have suffered much from the executive order of last Friday. I am, along with many of my colleagues in ministry throughout our state and our nation, deeply concerned — especially for the refugee families who have suffered much and have been turned away after years of careful vetting.

Safety is, of course, a duty of government — as it has always been. And the process of receiving refugees throughout the years — most often in cooperation with faith-based organizations and faith communities — has been done in a professional, careful way. You can read more about the process refugees endure at the Refugee Services of Texas website.

Refugees have contributed much to our nation. And so have other immigrants. The history of nearly any important endeavor in this nation would not be complete without the contribution of immigrants. Growing up, I was taught that we are a nation of immigrants. Unless you are a Native American, your family history — perhaps very recent family history — goes back to someone who immigrated to the United States. My first resident ancestor on my mother’s side was a refugee, fleeing persecution and living as an indentured servant for years to pay for his passage to America. Most of us have such stories.

My burden and my responsibility as a Christian and as a pastor is to remind us all of who we are — and Whose we are — and God’s call on our lives. The biblical witness speaks over and over again about welcoming the stranger. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were refugees themselves, fleeing the wrath of King Herod into the relative safety of Egypt. Jesus so identified with “the least of these, [his] brothers and sisters,” that he said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” (Matthew 25:35) To welcome a stranger is to welcome the Lord himself. We must not take that responsibility lightly. I have signed a letter, along with other faith leaders across our state, urging our governor to re-commit his support for and participation in the U.S. resettlement program and to oppose any anti-refugee proposal.

Bishop Bruce Ough, who is President of the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church, wrote a piece that I commend to you. Although he doesn’t specifically ask the questions, he expresses in a powerful way an important answer to the questions I’ve been asking in my “Heart of the City” sermon series: Who are we? Who is our neighbor? What is God calling us to do?

In his letter, Bishop Ough leads us in a careful study of one of Jesus’ oft-repeated teachings: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) He goes on to write:

The original Greek language is far more poetic, powerful, and prophetic. In finer translations of the Greek language, we hear Jesus saying: “Whoever seeks to build a wall around their soul shall destroy it; whoever tears down the wall (around their soul) shall bring their soul to a living birth.”

The very soul of our country is at stake. When we abandon strangers who are at risk of bigotry, xenophobia, and violence we not only destroy their hope, we destroy our own souls. When we fail to assist the refugees fleeing danger, we not only place them in harm’s way, we do harm to our own souls. When we build walls of concrete, or walls of divisive rhetoric, or walls of fear, or walls of immoral immigration policies, we build a wall around our own souls.

Christ calls us to tear down the walls around our souls that we might live fully and abundantly.

I encourage you to read Bishop Bruce Ough’s pastoral letter in full, and I encourage our entire First Church family to continue to pray for our state and nation’s leaders. Yesterday morning I met with a group of clergy to plan an interfaith prayer vigil that will take place on Thursday, February 9, at 7:00 pm at University Christian Church. I encourage you to attend this vigil if you can, and even if you can’t be with us, to join us in prayer at that time.

Let us live as faithful followers of Jesus and informed, engaged citizens. Let us relate to one another with love and respect as we discern together what it truly means to “be God’s people in the world” and to Love God, Serve People, and Transform Lives.

As I write this, my heart is lifted by being a part of our community of faith.

Grace and Peace,

Tim_Signature

 

 

Dr. Tim Bruster,
Senior Pastor

 

P.S. I also want to remind you of another wonderful opportunity for faith communities and others to come together in our upcoming Women in Faith Symposium on Sunday, February 12, hosted by Beth El Congregation. In this time of heightened awareness of our differences, this event will offer proactive leadership in finding common ground — emphasizing what connects us over what separates us.

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