“At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.’” Just a while later in the synagogue, this took place: the Pharisees asked Jesus “’Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath?’…He said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep!’” Jesus healed on that Sabbath and the Pharisees began to plan how to “destroy” him.
What would you do? Jesus blatantly broke the law in both instances. The law is the law. Give him the punishment he and his disciples deserve! I.C.E. agents recently raided the Fresh Mark plant and arrested well over a hundred employees who were working illegally. As the employer, Fresh Mark must follow the law when hiring individuals. I worked in Human Resources before being called to the pastorate and if I didn’t verify that the person was legally able to be hired, I am the one who would have been breaking the law. If individuals could not produce proper paperwork as required, I would not hire them, no matter how badly the company I worked for needed help. The law is the law.
Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill…for I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus never denied the law. He pointed out that there is more to be considered than just the written code. The scribes and the Pharisees were the law enforcement. They were only doing their job when they accused Jesus of breaking the law. But the dilemma comes when your sheep falls into a pit on the Sabbath. Do you break the law to save your sheep or do you let it go hungry and thirsty and possibly die until you can work to get it out the next day? “How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep?”
The church upholds the law and would not deny that I.C.E. did their job in rounding up those who were employed illegally. But Lutherans live by Law and Gospel, that is, upholding current law while working for change when it is unjust and showing compassion for those affected. “Lord, when was it that we saw you in prison and visited you?” Lives are affected, families are disrupted and the church is called to respond to this crisis in our town regardless of what political view one might take on the immigration issue. Both Old and New Testaments call us to the care of the orphan and widow. Children are “orphaned” because mom or dad was taken away. Wife or husband is “widowed” because the spouse who earned money to support them is gone.
I think Jesus taught us that if you are going to uphold the law, do it with compassion for human life. The pastors of Salem area churches have been invited to come together to discuss how to best assist the affected families. I have already started, and will continue over the next few weeks, a freewill offering collection for those who wish to help. This money will go to St. Paul’s to be used to purchase whatever they need to help these families. If, after this meeting, there are other ways we can help, I will let you know. Until then, either place your donation in the basket at the entrance to the church or you may write a check to Emmanuel and put on the memo line “aid for families.”