Do you believe the body of Christ can impact culture? How should we deal with strangers? Join us as Fr. Michael Sorial discusses how CHRIST IS THE MODEL OF BEING AS AN IMMIGRANT IN THE WORLD.
today we're going to be talking about Christ the immigrant and we're gonna be talking about the incarnation as a model for us as strangers or immigrants living in the world when you hear this sound what do you think some of you think go to the links of you think Christmas right when we first started using this Bell for letting people know that it was time to start the link everyone got up immediately in Cape over time what's happened is that people have just gotten used to it or desensitized in Matthew chapter 2 we find a beautiful little bell ringing and some people saw or heard it or heard about it and they came flocking and others maybe they were desensitized to other bells and things that were going on around them Matthew chapter 2 verse 1 and 2 reads the following Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea and the days of Herod the King behold wise men from the east came to Jerusalem saying where is he who has been born King of the Jews for we have seen a star in the East they heard a little bell if you will they saw a star in the east and that star signaled for them something to get up and to go and it says to worship Him we when we celebrate Christmas we don't celebrate just the birth of a man we celebrate God becoming man himself we celebrate the Incarnation and in the Orthodox Christian tradition the work of Christ is seen as highlighting certain layers within the human experience in other words it doesn't compare necessarily one to one so i'm going to use today an example as christ the immigrant but it's not a perfect example for us as what it means for us as immigrants so to speak living in the world the reason being is that the work of Christ is far greater than any one single aspect of the human experience it's the greater mystery becoming men that in the process reveals to us lesser mysteries and for instance one of those lesser mysteries is what does it mean for us as the church to be the body of Christ in the world just as God being incarnate into the world people immigrate for various reasons right people entering to a new realm for various reasons if you're just to think about emigration why people immigrate people emigrate some for positive reasons some for negative reasons or negative aspects if we look at Christ as the model of an immigrant some of the positive aspects that also align with why people immigrate is number one family reunification someone moved someone is no longer close and they want to go and be close with them others they want to offer opportunity to children their children others perhaps for reasons of marriage and you could say that Christ Himself emigrated or was incarnate in order to offer these things to us that we would be united to him and married to him that he would offer opportunity to the children of God and that the family of God would be reunified but so there's also negative aspects if you will why people immigrating I've heard these stories far too often why people leave their home country for some it's just escaping conflict they had difficulty they were discriminated against persecuted they had difficult economic situations they were refugees after being displaced from their homes for whatever reason natural disaster military conflict whatever it may be and for others it's just to escape poverty and Christ himself when he came he bestowed a solution for us as immigrants as sojourns as aliens in the world not as immigrants from one country to another but as immigrants that are in the world but better not of the world he came so that we could escape the the danger if you will of death that he came in order to renew us and said give us the riches of heaven and he came so that we have an eternal home on may nine nineteen seventy my parents they immigrated to this country and they entered in so doing they entered a completely new reality like anyone who's an immigrant here knows that no something that the rest of us who have not immigrated we don't know like I've I don't know what it means to move yes I I left Texas and I moved to the United States yes absolutely but the cultures are pretty similar but those who came either from Latin America or Middle East or eight it's a very different experience it's a completely new reality challenges that they experience were tremendous they left home they left family financial hardship they felt alone entered a new world and a new culture and so as a child of an immigrant or child of immigrants I'm fascinated with diversity and I'm faceted with diversity as it specifically relates to the body of Jesus Christ what does it mean for us in a country that is surrounded by hundreds of races cultures languages to engage with that society I can tell you growing up my experience was very different my experience growing up in church was radically different than my experience out in the world growing up my home life my church life I was surrounded by almost everyone either spoke Arabic or was from an Egyptian immigrant background but yet I looked at in the world I saw something very different from that and so I from a young age pondered this question what does it mean for us as the body of Christ as Christians to be in a reality in a new reality and how do we engage with that reality and so for that reason today when the political sphere is debating immigration reform I want us to think specifically about what is Christ's incarnation mean for us as immigrants and specifically how we deal with other immigrants or aliens in the world others if you will in the world I mentioned that Christ is the model for us of what it means to be an alien what it means to be an immigrant so to speak he crossed the boundary between heaven and earth without fear he entered a new reality he came without reservation seeking to make a home among humanity and in so doing he did to specific things number one is he dealt with local symbols he entered into a culture people and in entering into that culture he dealt with certain cultural symbols that made sense for people at that time in that place I always joke with my friends that if if Christ was incarnate in China he would not have referred to himself as the bread of life but the rights of life okay because in the Middle East bread is the basics ustin he engaged but in China it's not bread it's rice so he entered into a local cultural paradigm he engaged with the symbols so that he could communicate the gospel himself to people in a way that they could understand he spoke a local language he met with people where they were at at the same time he didn't just enter into that local culture but he also came and invested into others he invested himself and to others by uniting himself to us he imparted to us his gift is joy his sacrifice his love second Peter chapter 2 verse 3 and 4 tells us that in his coming says his divine power was given to us has given to us all things that pertain to life through his incarnation he came he didn't just enter into this local culture then he came and he gave us all things that pertain to life and godliness that through these things in verse 4 he says we would become partakers of the divine nature he came engaged with the local culture engaged with local symbols not as an end in itself but as a means to impart himself to us so what does it mean for us as the body of Christ to engage as Christians to engage with local symbols different cultures I would say they emphasize different values right when you say beauty and one culture it means something different and another culture safety safety here means something very different than safety and Egypt mean something very different than safety in Syria being hungry here means something very different than in other parts of the cutter parts of the world celebration how we celebrate what our sense of Worth is these mean different things in different places and so for some of us who come from different cultural backgrounds they also mean different things to many of us who sit here in that same assembly in the body of Christ some of the things that we I think have to kind of zoom out and look at our local culture and acknowledge that there are certain values here that people often time to ask me these values are they good are they bat and I tell them it's I don't know if we can say they're good or bad there they are what they are okay there could be a positive aspect there could be a negative aspect the first value that I want to talk about is individualization or individuality individualization the individual here in America in the country are we we now reside is a huge value being your own person is important the challenge with this is that when we as the body of Christ and I'm not talking exclusively us here at Sandy anis okay but when we as a body we enter into a reality there's certain value statements okay how do we engage with that people can say no individuality is about being ignored altogether or they embrace it all together now the individual of course is something that we value the respect of every person is something that we value the danger with this is when we take it to the extent of religion itself being individualized and that's what we find happening today in this country and really all over Western cultural value is it doesn't matter what community says I do what's good for me it doesn't matter what the community believes what i think is all that matters I don't think that the individualization of religion that we see happening today fits within an early Christian worldview because community is at the heart of the biblical experience of God in numbers chapter five one of the worst things that could happen to a person is that they would be cast out of the community in the middle of the wilderness hey if someone was unclean they would be kicked out of the community and what happens when you're out in the middle of wilderness apart from community what happens you die yeah there's no life okay so community and and the New Testament its season it's clear the assembly the the people of God the church the body of God I mean all the language in the Gospels and Pauline language about the community is so clear another value that I would say that is a local symbol that I think is it's a beautiful symbol is the symbol of freedom freedom I think freedom is so important because at the very heart of being a human is the notion of free will the notion of free will if I don't have the ability to choose where's the expression of faith like that the fact that our Christian ancestors from all over the world had the opportunity and the choice to declare their faith and be witnesses of Christ and shed their blood for Christ was a testament in itself of the importance of free will now I remember one of the bishops visiting here years ago and he was speaking to a group of youth and he said listen I know sometimes you young people here in America you guys get beaten up by your counterparts over in the you know other parts of the world not physically but like you know they say all those guys are not as this they're not as good they're not as pious or not as whatever and he says I see it completely different he says the way that I see it is that you here have a much more difficult road to walk you have choices that in other parts and he was speaking specifically he this bishop was serving an Upper Egypt he said the youth there the people there they don't have much choice they don't have much choice right they have no choice the freedom the freedom that is experienced here the increased freedom it allows people through choice to either sink morally lower or to rise higher number three is how we engage with local symbols I put the word decoupling because sometimes when people and I'm speaking specifically the example of those who have immigrated from other countries oftentimes what happens when people immigrated from one country to another they go through a process called enculturation that's not to be confused with assimilation okay simulation just means you blindly embrace every aspect of local culture enculturation is a longer process where there's a working out of local symbols and what they mean what they represent and the values and and how those things align with the greater value of a person okay and I think the opportunity for us as immigrants in the world okay immigrants of the world aliens of this world foreigners sojourns through this world is a decoupling that we look and say what is the value statement of God and how do our values whether American Egyptian Puerto Rican whatever it may be Lebanese French whatever value whatever they may be how do those align with the greater value the values of the kingdom of God how do those things add up first and foremost people ask me what are you I'm trying to figure out are they figured asking about this or that my-my a man or what I'm like I'm not sure okay so once I've gotten past that the first what am I answer is I'm a Christian I'm an Orthodox Christian like that that's my first value statement okay everything else fits into that i'm going to i'm an american egyptian or I'm an American I'm gonna depending on who I'm speaking to but the overarching umbrella if you will is imma imma Christian that's my eye we decouple if you will from local cultures and identify with the kingdom of God and we find by the way Christ doing this Christ he entered and he didn't embrace everything in local culture right he constantly said I'm not of this world it's not that way in my father's house like constantly he was countercultural to use the word from discussion right and this is what the body of Christ can do this is what actually the body of Christ the early Christians did they stood against local culture as it opposed biblical or Christian principles if you go to the book of Revelation chapter 19 action let me flip the real quick God is calling out the early church chapter 18 chapter 18 in chapter 18 book of Revelation God is calling up the local church he's singing the phone he says all he talked about how all the merchants of the earth weep and mourn and he actually in verse 4 he declares to the church he says come out of her her being Babylon he's rebuking the church because it has without any limits embrace local culture then the values of local culture he says come out of her my people lest you share in her sins and lest you receive of her plagues for her sins have reached to heaven and God has remembered her iniquities render to her just as she rendered to you and then in verse 11 through 13 talks about some of the local value statements of the Empire at the time of the culture at the time which it was all about materialism and the climax of that was in verse 13 where the merchants were selling and trading it ends with bodies and souls of men when we stand against culture and cultural values that are completely antithetical to the gospel we're following the command of God to come out of Babylon and to put the value of the kingdom of God above all else Christ didn't just enter into a local culture but he came and he invested himself into us he invested himself into humanity and so I want to tell you one of the things that I I feel as a value as an Orthodox Christian myself is that I i don't i don't believe i wholeheartedly and i've been saying this for years I don't think that I'm just here by accident I don't believe my parents came here by ax I don't believe that I'm a son of Egyptian immigrants I don't believe my parents came here and that we're here just beat HAP hazard I think that we're here for a reason I think there's a value to a unique lens as to how we approach God a new unique approach as to how we see God and how we engage with them that I'm not saying is better or worse it's different there's value I can't tell you how often people yell at me when they say like why do you people hide your face like why we've like I'll have conversations people and like we've never heard this stuff before we've never heard this approach before this makes perfect sense when we seek to invest in others we're saying there's a a beautiful way that we see Christ that we want to share with you Christ entered into the world to invest himself and us we as the body of Christ have entered into this into this world to invest into others to share the beauty of the kingdom of God with others somewhat some of the beautiful things that that I think are so critical about the body of Christ that have that are being lost almost is how it is that we express our faith not just in church but in home as well this is being lost folks this is really being lost the incarnation of the gospel is not just showing up Sunday morning it's living out the faith at home it's a unique worship experience it's saying Lord this is what we believe about you again this is not us there's not like this I thought was a really beautiful depiction of the uniqueness of three different Christian traditions a Protestant a Catholic and an orthodox wedding service they're different it's it's a unique experience they might be saying very similar things but each of them is saying something a little bit different right okay and it's not to say this is good and everything else no it's to say this is beautiful and we'd love to share this with you I actually believe that one of the greatest evangelistic services in the church is the wedding is the marriage sermon I think it's what it's done right when it's done right it is beauty walk out saying like that is beautiful God's love to his people is incredible because the the crowning service is Christ and the church and the whole service is declaring the beauty of what Christ has done for the church it is a beautiful beautiful surface that climaxes with humanity being crowned with heavenly crowns public celebrations these are some some distinct things right i mean i-i growing up I thought this was it was strange and then I realized it's not strangers just it's different than the American values that I grew up with where religious life is very private you do it at Churchill that's it when I first moved to Queens they wanted to do a procession out like in the middle of the neighborhood I was i I was so we're i was like no no that's like no way like what are the neighbors going to say and and it's very interesting because at one point they did it I think when done right like it's you see this happening all over the world I'm not saying it has to be done this way that way I'm just saying there's a a willingness to celebrate the work of Christ in a way that's public that's not gaudy that's not hypocritical that's not just for show but its celebrating to glorify god and that is a little bit different but this is different than certain values that we would have as in our American religious experience I'm telling you as an American I'm much more much more American than a lot of you than most of you i would say in in my world view this growing up would have been very uncomfortable for me okay because i saw myself as an American first and foremost not as a Christian first and foremost okay let me skip down so let me let me come to their really the heart of the message and I'm going to wrap up in the next few minutes I think what God is calling us to do is engaged with local symbols as immigrants in the world loving other immigrants in the world ok we are immigrants sorry of the world and we are called to love immigrants in the world we are called folks to enter into this world this reality to where is a born out of this world absolutely but let's love others in the world mother Teresa said it beautifully one time she said I'm just one beggar offering to feed another beggar I'm just one hungry person offering to feed another hungry person and the way we do so is by engaging with local symbols it's finding out where a person is at and feeding them Jesus when he showed up on the scene he saw people were hungry he when he fed them and then he gave them the gospel if you found a person couldn't walk healed them and gave them the gospel he found where people were at he found where the hole was the missing the gap was and he fed people he touched them there sometimes it's just an ear sometimes it's just the Samaritan woman sitting there and she needs someone to talk to so I'm going to listen to her and Christ met her there and I think in the world that we live in today it's more and more like that than than any other gap oftentimes people are just looking for someone to be an ear to them you say I don't have time I think part of the reason is because we have submitted ourselves to be citizens of the world not citizens of heaven that are first and foremost our main obligation and and and focus is growing as citizens of the world not as citizens of heaven let me wrap up with two quick points for you if we embrace other humans made in God's own image that means that people who are aliens and this word alien is use 92 times in the Old Testament okay the word is God and it literally means someone actually let me review the pad one of the passages it comes from it's beautiful the way that the children of God were called in Exodus chapter 12 to embrace strangers and to dine with them at the Passover meal which was a very intimate meal is the way that we are to seek to embrace others made in God's own image Exodus 1248 249 and when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover of the Lord let all his mails be circumcised and let him come near and keep it he shall be as a native of the land he's saying that if someone comes in there are certain cultural aspects certain things that are local values that you don't have to accept but embrace that person to dine with you and have them come and eat with you and love them because they're made in God's image for no one law verse 49 shall be for the native son and for this stranger who dwells amongst you when we're able to love others who are radically different from us that is a witness that's a testimony of the gospel the world today is so broken like I I am so deeply saddened every time I look I look out on the news between the American political situation what's going on in Syria what's going on and just you you paint it you turn on the news and you look there's a lot of brokenness and a part of the reason is because others objectify their neighbors okay but the body of Christ when we deal with the other we embrace them in love we welcome them into the assembly we welcome them to dine with them we love them as immigrants of the world embracing other immigrants in the world early Christians did not stand out by changing politics I'm not gonna I'm not here to talk to you about politics I'm here to tell you that early Christians they they weren't concerned with what Caesar is doing they couldn't care less render unto Caesar what is Caesar's they said but we as the people of God is the kingdom of God we're going to do things differently we can debate political or immigration reform till we're blue in the face and I wholeheartedly believe that you can have both sides positioned against one another and we'll get nowhere and will continue to argue and debate it and we could do that but what I want to invite the body of Christ to do is to embrace the stranger to embrace them regardless of what the political pundits tell us is that we as the body of Christ just as Christ entered into our world to embrace us and the body of Christ has historically done this that we would continue to reach our arms out and embrace others who are different from us that we would love them into a loving relationship with the father that we would be willing to share and to offer ourselves sacrificially to others and in part what God has given to us alright any questions yes