Hope on Union, United University Church is an inclusive, progressive campus and community church located near USC, Mt. St. Mary's College and LA Trade Tech College on S. Union Ave. between 22nd and 23rd St. Rooted in the love of God, and following the example of Jesus, the faith community of United University Church seeks peace with justice, and welcomes all to join the journey, break bread and share stories of hope.

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The world is in a state of pandemic caused by a previously unknown virus. We named it COVID -19 meaning there were 18 others from the family of coronaviruses. It is amazing that the entire human world is brought to a state of panic, and almost a complete halt, by something so small as a virus, something that we cannot even see, touch or feel. We are living in a state of fear. However, this is not new. We have had other viral outbreaks in the past, even recent past.

While the Plague, Yellow Fever, Measles, Cholera, Influenza and others are taught in history classes, there have been some other recent outbreaks. We had SARS (2002-3), Swine Flu (2009-10), Ebola (2014-2016), HIV/AIDS (1981-present), and MERS (2015-present). SARS and MERS are also corona viruses.

In the midst of a pandemic we are concerned for those who are ill and lost loved ones; however, we seem to have a short memory. Once the immediate danger is over, we return to a blissful state of ignorance. We seem to repeat our cycles of fear to obtuseness without learning from the experiences of the vulnerability of extinction. We will get through this pandemic, like we have done in the past, though with painful memories of loved ones lost and many losing jobs and homes.

Pandemics remind us that we are not invincible. We are reminded that humans are fragile. We are reminded that we do not have dominion over our world. While human beings are powerful and have some capabilities, in reality, we do not have dominion over nature, our surroundings, or even our lives. We are a part of a larger fabric of life that includes us; we are just a small part of a large world which has many other players.

Our existence on this planet is like a stage play. While different characters come and go on the stage, and while some get the spotlight shining on them, while some are just in the background never seen by the audience, or the pit orchestra that is heard, but not seen, the entire team has to work together and each have to do their part in order for the show to go well. The show is successful when each actor works to help the other be better by giving each other the best of themselves. There are other metaphors that give us the same message such as a sports team, an orchestra, or even a family.

Creation Care is one of the most important issues we are facing today. How we live today may be the source of human extinction in the future. While I am optimistic that human ingenuity will find ways to alleviate some of the impact of our carelessness, we will pay a dear price for it. The next generations will pay a much greater price for it and we have to remember that we are endangering the lives of our children and grandchildren. We are not to have “dominion” over nature and the world, but to live in a harmony with them. So when you see the word “kindom” know that it is not a typo, but it is an intentional effort to remind us that we are to live in peace and harmony with the rest of the world.

“The wall” has dominated the US political conversation for past several years; however, building walls is not a new political idea. China built the “Great Wall” to stop Mongolian invasions, and former USSR built the “Iron Curtain” including the iconic “Berlin Wall” to separate itself from the West. The most troublesome element of the current political talk about the wall however, is the cavalier attitude with which the military war machine is being utilized in a civilian matter.

This past Sunday, the Pueblos sin Fronteras (People without Borders) after a monthlong harrowing journey from Honduras, finally arrived at US border station at San Ysidro. In desperation, a caravan of about a thousand people, mainly women with young children, left Honduras to escape the violence in their country. They left with hopes of being able to raise their families in safe neighborhoods with good schools. Their hope was to ask for asylum as refugees.

When the news of the caravan was reported, US government dispatched armed soldiers, not to welcome but to threaten the innocent refugees from seeking asylum in the US. It is appalling that the country which claims to be the most Christian nation in the world, responded to mothers, who are trying to keep their families alive, by pointing machine guns at them. These individuals came to our border and asked for asylum in accordance with International laws regarding refugees, the same way those who came to Ellis Island in previous centuries. Our shame is that while the previous “European” asylum seekers were greeted with the words of the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” the “Central American” refugees were met with the armed soldiers threatening to kill them.

On Monday, the US government, the largest economic engine in the world, claimed that it did not have enough resources to process the 150 who finished the journey, and interviewed only about 25 people in first two days. In comparison, on April 17, 1907, the US had the capacity to process and accept 11,474 refugees seeking asylum. As of my writing, I am reading about tired women and children who are forced to sleep out on the street for the second night in the rain. The irony is that while the US government only had several agents who could interview and process refugees, there were several hundreds of armed soldiers with machine guns. I am reminded of Matthew 25 when Jesus told his disciples of what those who did not take care of people in need will receive from God. May God be merciful even when we are not.

The question for the Church is how we respond as people of God when aliens and foreigners come to our shores seeking freedom from tyranny and relief from violence and war. There are many who are providing food, blankets, emotional support, and spiritual guidance to the travelers, but there are many more who are at the border with resolve to ensure that these people are not allowed in “their” country. We must push our government to act ethically and justly. We cannot remain silent.

The Berlin Wall, the iconic symbol of separation and oppression, fell in 1989. The background story is that since late 1970s Poland’s Catholic Church under the leadership of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the man who would later become the Pope John Paul II, created a summer camping program to teach young people Biblical values and ethics. The end result is that many of these young people grew up to be border guards and decided that because of their faith, they could not shoot refugees who were seeking freedom. As you can guess, when the guards would not shoot, the wall became meaningless. Later that year, with the world watching with tears of joy, the young people from East and West Berlin worked together to tear down the wall. Today, pieces of that wall are in various museums around the world as a reminder of our common resolve to never again build walls to keep people from freedom.

The Berlin Wall reminds us that the desire for freedom is always more powerful that the wall of fear.

Every generation faces tests of their humanity. Today, we are faced with the question of how we will respond to the arrival of the political refugees from Central America. Last week, in a conversation with a woman whose sister is a missionary in Mexico City, I was told stories about a woman who was fleeing with her daughter because gangs came to kidnap her daughter to use her for prostitution. Another story was a young father fleeing with his two little girls because the gangs came to recruit him, and if he was not going to join them, they were going to kill his family. She gave out strollers because there were hundreds of mothers in the caravan who were carrying their young children. The caravan is made up of parents who are looking for safe place to raise their families.

How we respond to the human needs of the caravan is the test of our soul and the veracity of our faith. It is not wrong to seek a better life for your children, my parents did that for me and your parents did the same for you as well. Whether it is moving to another country, or moving to the other side of the town, it is all the same; it is a search for a better place for the children grow up to be healthy and productive. The caravan should be seen as heroic parents who are willing to suffer the hardship of living in a foreign country as immigrants - for many of them not speaking the language - so their children can have a better future.

The word “alien” in Greek means, “the one who stands outside the door.” So when Jesus in Revelations says, “I stand at the door and knock,” he says he is an alien. We must recognize that the people in the caravan are just like us, looking for someplace safe to raise their families. They should be welcomed as children of God who are seeking ways to live out the full expression of image of God within themselves and their children. We must see Jesus in them. Will we send Jesus away because he is of a darker hue? Will we reject Jesus because he does not speak English?

This is a test of our souls.