Rev. Jocelyn B. Gardner Spencer is the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Woodstock. She is a Racial Justice Ministry facilitator, a member of the CTUCC Board of Directors, and Moderator of the new Together As One Conference of the UCC in Southern New England.
Scripture: Luke 15:20(NRSV)
“But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.”
As I write, news is breaking of 29 Latin American parents who have traveled thousands of miles to the U.S.-Mexico border. All of them have made this journey at least once before, when they fled terrifying violence and desperate poverty in their home countries and brought their families north to seek refuge. They crossed into the U.S. and were detained, and while in custody, they were separated from their children. These parents, along with hundreds of others, then were deported without their children, and they have returned now to seek asylum and a chance at reunification. As one father said, “Without my daughter, I'm dead inside.”
This week’s reading from Luke tells the story of another father who is separated from his child, though in this case it is a separation of the child’s own choosing. When he catches a glimpse of his prodigal son trudging homeward, filthy and stinking of pig slop, the elderly father sets aside all dignity, hikes up his robes, and hightails it down the road to embrace his lost child.
In the realm of God, no expense is too extravagant, no price is too high, to search out a lost child and bring them home. It doesn’t matter how they got there—by waywardness or by ignorance or by accident or by choice. No matter who is lost or why, in the realm of God, no expense is spared to search them out and carry them to safety.
This is what it means to be followers of Jesus. It means that we are responsible for one another, responsible to keep one another safe, to protect and care for one another whenever a child of God is in need. This is how God’s people respond: by mobilizing every conceivable resource to find those lost children, to keep them safe, and to bring them home.
Not by taking children from their parents and locking them in cages.
Not by forcing toddlers—children the age of my son, who doesn’t know what a country is, let alone which one he comes from or why he might have left it—to represent themselves in immigration courts.
Not by requiring parents to consent to deportation, to be returned to the violence or poverty or abuse or hunger or desperation they fled in search of sanctuary, in order to have their children returned to them.
This is what it means to be followers of Jesus: that when a child—any child—is in trouble, when a human being—any human being—is in trouble, when any part of this God-so-loved world is in trouble, we go there, we search them out, we bind their wounds, we bring them home. It may cost us our resources. It may cost us our privilege. It may cost us our pride. It may cost us our jobs. It may cost us our lives. But in the realm of God, we do it willingly. We do it joyfully. Because that is how God first loves us.
Holy One, thank you for seeking me out when I am in need, when I am in trouble, when I am lost, when I am afraid, when I am far from home. Don’t give up on me now, and help me not to give up on any of your children. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those grieving or suffering in southern Africa after Cyclone Idai destroyed thousands of homes, killing more than 750 and leaving over 100,000 living in camps
- For the families of Spc. Joseph P. Collette and Sgt. 1st Class Will D. Lindsay, who were killed in combat in Afghanistan last week
- For the people of Mali where increased violence resulted in the deaths of more than 100 Fulani villagers in attacks over the weekend
- For the family and friends of Janet English Dorman, mother of Debby Kirk, CTUCC Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. Janet was the daughter of former conference minister Rev. James F. English. She died on March 14
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the official arrival of Spring
- For the 3,468 members of our nation's armed services who have earned the National Medal of Honor since 1861 for service above and beyond the call of duty
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
First Church in Middletown, UCC
South Congregational Church, UCC
First United Church of Christ
Wildermere Beach Congregational UCC
Woodmont United Church of Christ
This Week in History:
Mar. 28, 1979, (40 years ago) A pressure valve at The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant fails to close, leading to a cooling water leak and heating of the core. It was later determined that the accident was a result of human error when signals from the reactor were misinterpreted. Though the core never reached melt down temperatures and radiation leaks were considered non-life threatening, 2 days later a precaution warning by Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh led to a panic in which more than 100,000 residents fled the area.
The Rev. Jocelyn Gardner Spencer is the President of the Southern New England Conference and the Senior Minister of United Church on the Green, New Haven CT.