San Lucas Day
October 18 is the day that the Church commemorates St. Luke, the namesake for our congregation. The legendary tradition suggests that Luke could have been a physician. Here on the U.S.-Mexico border, San Lucas continues to be a place of healing and wholeness in the midst of poverty, fear, and violence.
A few weeks ago, during worship at Cristo Rey, our mission site outside Piedras Negras, a few families got up and left during the sermon. I initially thought they were protesting my preaching! It turns out they got a message that shots were fired in their neighborhood. The got home safely, but it was a somber reminder of the violence that is happening on the border.
The Holy Spirit moves among us
On the Sunday that members of Shepherd of the Hills, Austin, were visiting us with a load of school supplies, a woman from San Lucas (whose story I tell here anonymously, with her permission) pulled me aside and told me about her nephew, who was presumed to be killed by cartel violence this past spring. A bag of his severed limbs had been delivered to his family. The congregant was worried about the children starting school without school supplies and backpacks. Immediately after that conversation, with Holy-Spirit-perfect-timing, someone from Austin told me, “Pastor, we brought a few extra backpacks. Do you think you can find a use for them?”
San Lucas continues responding to hunger in the community, even with a few changes to our food bank. The county food bank has taken over distributing the WalMart donations San Lucas previously received. We were, however, surprised with an unexpected donation of a trailer-full of canned goods from a food drive by the United States Border Patrol.
Possibilities for learning
As a Spanish-speaking ELCA congregation near the border, San Lucas is an undiscovered treasure in terms of being a teaching and learning place for the wider church. What better way to learn about cross-cultural ministry, justice issues, and immigration than to be Church with Christian brothers and sisters living in this context! San Lucas is in the process of collaborating with some other congregations and agencies for some exciting mission opportunities in the months ahead.
“Paths as yet untraveled, through perils unknown…”
With national news coverage about the recent prison escape in Piedras Negras, I certainly understand fear about border violence. However, I also understand the Christian faith as a call to the edges, inviting us to walk alongside those who know all too well the terror of potential unexpected violence and the perpetual struggle of poverty. This is where the Church needs to be.
Keeping in touch
Connection with our friends and mission partners is invaluable. Check out our newly updated website, www.sanlucas78852.org. Follow the link for online giving. Browse my reflections about ministry en la frontera at borderpastor.wordpress.com. Like us at www.facebook.com/sanlucaseaglepass. Most importantly, pray for us. Prayer is advocacy. Remember the ministry at San Lucas and Cristo Rey, families on the border, those returning from seasonal work Up North, and those who wait with hopeful longing for an end to fear.
Pastor Paul Bailie
Con cruces en los frentes, marcando el amor,
Jesús está presente, aun en el dolor.
Somos mojados con agua bautismal.
Ciudadanos del reino celestial.
At San Lucas, we have three baptisms planned for All Saint’s Sunday. As I thumb through the hymnal, I realize that our congregational musical repertoire doesn’t really have a lot of baptismal hymnody. When I first started here, I borrowed the personal hymnal of a strong musical leader in the congregation, who had circled the numbers of the hymns generally familiar to the congregation—none in the baptism section. This surprises me because of traditional Lutheran emphasis on the importance of baptism. The baptism hymns already in the hymnal don’t seem easily singable for us.
Therefore, I decided to try my first attempt at writing verse in Spanish. I think the words work, but haven’t figured out a tune yet. I don’t know how I’ll use it; maybe I might include the text in a sermon, before trying to sing it. The meter and rhyme don’t work as well in a literal English translation:
With crosses on the foreheads, marking the love,
Jesus is present, even in the pain.
We are wet with baptismal water.
Citizens in the heavenly dominion.
Yes, I know that the word mojado has connotations in Spanish. It is almost like saying wetback in English. It’s a word that has been used to exclude and marginalize immigrants. Yet I was very intentional about using this word here.
I find it a subversively helpful image for thinking about baptism. Along with other metaphors, like washing, dying, and joining a family, I’d like to add citizenship to our repertoire of framing baptismal life.
The slur wetback is often used by people who think that immigrants have no right to be in the country. It implies that they’ve entered undeservingly.
That is how it is with all of us as human beings in the reign of God. We have no rights to enter, and we don’t deserve full participation. Yet God welcomes us. God invites us, giving us full amnesty. Baptism is more than deferred action. It is a fresh start and a new beginning. In marking with the cross of Christ and sealing with the Holy Spirit, we are citizens of God’s kingdom. Todos somos mojados. We are all wet. Gracias a Dios.
Imagine these for sale advertisements that could have been posted online from Judea.craigslist.org.
4 Sale. Brown leather sandals. Barely worn. 10 denairii or best offer. Must sell.
Grey donkey. 4-leg drive. Gets 15-20 miles per bushel. Must go.
Vacation condo on Sea of Galilee. 2 bedroom, 1 bucket. Great views. Location. Location. Location. Going fast. Call now.
Obviously, there wasn’t a Judea.craigslist.org online posting board then, but it makes us wonder: What happens next? What if he actually sells his stuff and follows Jesus?
First, Let’s take a step back. This guy asks Jesus a question. Here in Mark’s Gospel, it just says “a man.” Matthew calls him “the young man,” and Luke’s version of the story calls him “a certain ruler.” Combining the stories together often leads to calling this the story of “the rich young ruler,” but let’s focus just on Mark’s story, and here Mark just says “a man.”
This man ran up to Jesus and asks, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus reminds him of the commandments: Five of the ten commandments (adultery, murder, steal, bear false witness, honor your parents) and one other commandment from Hebrew scripture: don’t defraud. Though not in the famous Top Ten List, it underscores the repeated theme of economic justice throughout the Bible.
These are the “biggie” commandments. Without too much effort, it’s possible to more or less follow them. This man knows this. “Teacher,” he says, “I’ve kept these since I was a little kid.”
Jesus says, “You’re missing one thing: go, sell what you own, give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
When the man heard this, he was shocked—the Greek word literally means gloomy and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Mark’s Gospel was written for a people for whom the return of Christ was soon and immanent. It’s a matter of living in anticipation for the Kingdom of God. There is no need, then, for any Earthly possessions.
But we don’t get “the rest of the story.” We don’t know if this man thought about his sandals and donkeys and robes and goats and sold them or not. We don’t know how he was impacted by his encounter with Jesus.
The law—our diagnosis–here with the camel and the needle is a reminder of reliance on stuff. It points to your idolatries, your affluenza. Jesus’ demand here is tough and uncomfortable.
The Gospel—our prognosis—here is that we don’t need all our stuff.
We don’t need to be wealthy or rich or have a big 401k to be included by God. We can’t buy our way into heaven. On the other hand, we can’t sell our way, or give stuff away our way, either. A thousand postings on Craigslist won’t make God love us any more.
I think that’s the point. We are never going to get rid of all of our “stuff.”
We can certainly try to live in anticipation of the Kingdom of God, but we’re still part of a fallen humanity. So we keep living in the hope of a God, for whom all things are possible. Amen.