Continuing Christ's ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing in his birthplace
A sermon by: Rev. Jose Luis Casal
Director of Presbyterian Mission Agency
Delivered at The Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church, March 3rd, 2019.
Dear brothers and sisters,
I bring you greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ on behalf of the Presbyterian Church USA. During the last 223 General Assembly of our church in St. Louis, it was approved a statement of solidarity and compassion with the families of the victims of this long-time confrontation in Palestine but specially around Gaza. Solidarity and compassion are more than words and cannot be reduced to a statement or letter but required the presence and accompaniment with those who are suffering. This is prayer and compassion in action and is the foundation of our mission work. In the Bible the call to establish justice and liberation is described to Moses as an active presence with the people. “I have seen the affliction of my people… and I am come down to deliver them.” Our presence here during these days is a symbol of the solidarity of PC(USA) with those who are crying and suffering in this land. Solidarity is a human principle rooted in The Word of God, justice is God’s aspiration for the humankind and we recognize the value and importance of this. Martin Luther King Jr. the famous civil rights leader in the USA said, “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” And because the PCUSA don’t want to remain silent, we are here. We have here one of the two GA Co-Moderators, 4 ministry directors, two associate directors and 3 Area Coordinators The presence of this high-level delegation is not a political action, that would be a reduction of the love of God to human parameters.
Our presence is the affirmation of the unconditional love of God for those who suffer.
In second place, we are here because we want to comply with the decision of the General Assembly in 2016 who called our PCUSA to be a Matthew 25 Church, and… what is that? This model of church is not the practice of charity but the implementation of solidarity. Those who were doing the right thing in this story committed their time, possessions and actions to work with those in. This is the church that feed people instead of giving food, dress the necked instead of donating old clothes; heal the sick instead of collecting medicines and visit people in prison instead of just praying for them. Matthew 25 is not humanitarian help or aid but is a solidarity presence. If we are not capable to act, we are not capable to love.
The church model present in Matthew 25 is committed to change the human being transforming the society into a system where injustice has no place, discrimination is not practiced, equity is proclaimed and peace ceases to be an ideal to become a reality.
Some of us have just arrived from Colombia where our partners in Latin America and the Caribbean approved a pastoral letter rejecting any military action in Venezuela. The participants rejected the concept of humanitarian aid and affirmed the principle of evangelical solidarity presence. This action was not scheduled, was not part of the agenda. It was a spontaneous and small thing that generated a tremendous sign of hope. That is to be a Matthew 25 Church.
Sometimes small things can be seen as a seed of hope, everything depends on the glass with use to analyze the events. For instance, our 223 GA Co-Moderator Vilmarie Cintron Olivieri shared with me her experience of a recent visit to Cuba to participate in the National Assembly of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in that country. She saw a symbol of hope in that church when discovered the presence of a young single woman installed as pastor of the most important, large and old congregation in the city of Havana, Cuba. This woman pastor with less than 30 years old leads a congregation of more than 130 years old. This is a symbol of renewal and is a seed of hope.
Another experience was to hear the Biblical reflection of our Regional Liaison, Rev. Victor Makari when we arrived here yesterday and he used the passage of Jesus sayo that if we would have faith of the size of a mustard seed we would be able to say to a mountain “move” and the mountain will go away. But the context of that passage is that the mountain Jesus was referring to, was the Herodías mountain where the palace of the King Herod was located. That mountain symbolized the Roman occupation of Palestine during Jesus’ time. Reading this passage with eyes of hope means that with faith any imperial occupation will go away. This simple interpretation change everything!
Small things can make a big difference
Dear brothers and sisters who live in this suffered land, never tire of believing in a future of peace with justice for your people here! If there is a human being who can believe in hope, the flame of God’s love will remain alive, which is the only force that can change the history of our peoples.
Dear Palestinian brothers and sisters, we love you, we pray for you and we are here to share the seed of hope that will change the actual challenges and sufferings. Be faithful and you will see “the mountain” moving away!