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Monday, July 21, 2014

They Are Children

Genesis 28:10-19a; Psalm 139
Proper 11, Year A
7/20/14
The Rev. Betsy Hooper-Rosebrook

Dreams come in so many forms: Good ones, nightmares, realistic or ridiculous, some that seem so vivid we aren't sure when we awake if they were dreams or not.

Jacob is on the run. He'd connived with his mother, cheated his brother, and tricked his father. He won the family birthright and blessing, yet he seems to have lost out on life. No wonder he's dreaming. But it's not a nightmare--that would have been understandable under the circumstances--nor a vision grounded in his past experiences. Instead, in this thin place, this house of God and gate of heaven, God steps through the gate to speak to Jacob of the future. There's no rebuke for unsavory behavior or stipulations for earning the right to carry forward God's plan; God simply reassures Jacob that through him the promise will be continued and the families of the earth will be blessed in him and his offspring.

As is so often the case in scripture, God chooses to act in an ordinary, and unlikely, person, in this case a refugee fleeing for his life. Even the description of the blessing--"You and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth"--is so mundane; no longer is a comparison made to sparkling stars in the sky, as Abraham was promised, but only to plain old dirt. But stars or sand, the words are clear: "I am with you and will keep you wherever you go." Consider the power of that dream to sustain Jacob and his descendants as time went by; imagine the confidence and strength inspired by those words. Remembering that God is with you can change everything.

In recent weeks and months, our news has been full of stories of young refugee children, journeying without their parents, fleeing for their lives from places of violence and the constant threat of death, circumstances created by powers and events far beyond their control. No matter your thoughts about how they got here or where they should go next, these children and youth have arrived in our midst...in the case of Southern California, nearly 600 at Port Hueneme...and they are in need of hearing God's promise: "I am with you and will keep you wherever you go." As they face all the fears and challenges of being far from home, remembering that God is with them can change everything.

This weekend, Bishop Bruno, along with a broad interfaith coalition of religious leaders, has called upon us to pray for these young people and to open our hearts in compassion for them. They are ordinary kids, and right this moment they need our love. Their past isn't the issue, they don't have to earn the right, they just need us to be a sign of God's presence with them.

So, right now, we're going to take the opportunity to write letters reminding these children of God that they are precious in God's sight and ours. In so doing, we're joining with thousands of people of every faith. If you have a smartphone or tablet with you, I invite you to take it out now and go to www.theyarechildren.com . You'll see on the right side of the website how you can submit a letter online. If you don't have one, or you're like me and your thumbs stumble over the tiny keys, take one of the papers and pens that are being handed out and use that, and we'll pass them along for delivery.

You don't have to write anything fancy; simply express, in a couple of lines, love and and reassurance. I've put up a few phrases in Spanish if you want to use those; feel free to get up and look at them. Or draw a picture if you prefer! Just think about what it might help you to hear, what would remind you that God is with you always, wherever you go. If you need more inspiration, take a look at our psalm today, Psalm 139, and use some of those words to help you speak of security and hope. Let's offer these beloved children of God a dream to give them courage and strength for their future, and show them that God is in this place.

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