Illustration by Dez Pain. Used by permission. From

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
from The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus

Emma Lazarus wrote her sonnet as her personal response to the Russian pogroms of the 1880s. She matched her words with tireless work in support of immigrants arriving to the United States. The words from her sonnet are co-mingling in my mind with words from the Epistle of James:

Religion that pleases God… must be pure and spotless. You must help needy orphans and widows and not let this world make you evil. (James 1:27 CEV)

I have been watching the news with its endless pictures of refugees from Syria. The desperation. The fear. The exhaustion. The faces of children. I would rather look the other way.

I compare the lives of refugee families to my own. I consider my over-indulgence in my daily diet. I look at my family budget, bills and expenses, and the needs of my own congregation. I think about my hospice patients and their families, and the heartache I witness every day. I watch the evening news to hear of another shooting not that many miles away from my home.

I don’t curl up like an armadillo or run off in a panic. I become numb. I am neither passionate about helping nor angry about being asked. My heart wants to disengage, to be “lukewarm.”

The Holy Spirit is incessantly reminding me… They are my neighbors. They are my brothers and sisters. Regardless of their religion, education or ethnic group, I am called to care about their welfare. Are any of my indulgences (hello, pumpkin spice latte) too much of a sacrifice? No… not really…

But beyond choosing how and when my family and I will support refugee agencies, there are deeper questions. How will I engage my government? Who will I write in support of the voiceless? And perhaps most pertinent of all, when politicians and political candidates build walls instead of sharing our resources, will I vote them out of office at the next election cycle?

I can proclaim from my bully pulpit the message of acceptance, generosity and peace. But if I do not follow up my words with action, I am not honoring the Gospel I preach. The pastoral role is not only to point us back to a radical life of service, but one that also holds our elected officials accountable for caring for “the least of these.”

May I have wisdom to hear, see and respond with the heart and mind of Christ.

Blessed be the Name.

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2 thoughts on “The Pastoral is Political: Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor?

  1. Thank you. I could not have said this better. It is the numbness of being in a situation when life for so many is impossible. To be in a rich country where every day the middle class is soaked more to subsidize the rich. But this is nothing like what is happening to the Syrians, or to those in Darfur. To try and do the right thing anyway in a dying biosphere. To be so tired. A young woman showed up at church yesterday just because she was in despair and needed a place to be.


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