When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” — Matthew 2:13-14
“When Israel was a child,I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.” — Hosea 11:1-2
Egypt has always been a great place of mystery and intrigue. Westerners have always been fascinated with the potential wealth that might lie buried over there in the desert, to the extent that one 19th century British Explorer planted dynamite in one of the pyramids and blew up half of it, only thinking of his lust for treasure. Most of the wealth of the ancient pharaohs has been plundered and stolen over the millennia, for personal collections, unseen by the masses, only leaving King Tut’s collection, meagre by comparison, available for the world to see. But before the wealth of ancient Egypt was plundered, a dynasty existed that made its way into Jewish and Christian story. First, God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, were held enslaved therein. They were immigrants, hostilly treated in a foreign land. Centuries later, the family of Jesus fled to Egypt as refugee immigrants, seeking safety from certain death in their own country. With all of these stories, our imaginations are stoked.
Like Egypt was over thousands of years, so are many countries, today. We find many industrialized nations have become simultaneously places of refuge and also plunderers of wealth, with various pharaohs calling the shots. Jesus’ home country of Palestine is surrounded and oppressed by Israel, whom many simultaneously see as a beacon of freedom and ironically as a pharaoh. South Africa, which killed the demon of apartheid, now fights the devil of entrenched racism and generational curses. And then our country, which calls itself the “home of the free” and the one who seeks to “make the world safe for democracy,” struggles to offer a safe democratic experience to many of its historically oppressed communities. In the same way that Martin Luther understood us Christians to be, countries are simul iustus ey peccator — “At the same time, sinner and saint.”
Jesus came into the world with the skin of an immigrant, showing us how to cross boundaries and love across boundaries. Our imagination is severely limited, because of the demonic powers and principalities at work, but we can still learn a lot from the life he lived. One historian wrote that first century, Palestinian peasants — the people to which Jesus went to serve — were, “barely able to survive from one planting season to the next, in perpetual debt and near the razor’s edge of destitution.”** Jesus brought the divine love of prophetic speech to this location, inviting us to do the same. Many of our Civil Rights leaders talk about a past experience of crossing boundaries and immigrating out of their comfort zones, following Jesus. We hear people older saints talking about having marched with Dr. Martin Luther King or having fought for voter rights. But it is so difficult to find people who are willing to step from their place of privilege into the margins of society, into which the hopeless and destitute have themselves migrated.
Jesus still immigrates to the margins of society, standing with the peasants of our country. Jesus once said, “If these are quiet, then the rocks will cry out.” It would seem that in lieu of the Church offering a prophetic voice, the young rock stars and those whose morals we might think rocky have begun to cry out. Across the world, in places where pharaohs reign, it is often the younger voices who speak the loudest. Do you hear them? Do you hear Jesus with them?
Consider: Look at the Student Action with Farmworkers, an organization in NC that does a lot of work with poor immigrants, and consider how this work is being carried by younger voices. Talk with a friend and see how you might be able to support and bring your voice to these younger people.
Pray: Dear Lord, we thank you for your immigration into our context, into our world. You came once, and you continue to come again and again. Please do not stop showing up. Please do not give up on us. Forgive us for when we give up on you, and help us to find you, outside of our comfort zones. Amen.
**William Herzog as quoted in Pharaohs on Both Sides of the Blood-Red Waters: Prophetic Critique in Empire: Resistance, Justice, and the Power of the Hopeful Sizwe — A Transatlantic Conversation, Allan Aubrey Boesak, 195.