The theme of immigration is woven throughout the biblical narrative. However, only 16 percent of evangelicals have ever heard about immigration in church. As a result, fewer than 10 percent report that they think about immigration primarily from the perspective of their faith. Have you ever talked about immigration from the pulpit? We encourage you to participate in the Immigration Preaching Challenge. Keep reading to learn more about the contest, discover immigration resources, and learn how you can incorporate immigration into your preaching.
So where does immigration appear in the Bible?
- Immigrants appear throughout Scripture:
- Abraham left his homeland for the land God would show him, promising to bless him and all other peoples through him.
- Joseph was a victim of human trafficking, sold as a slave.
- Naomi was forced to flee her homeland because of famine, and Ruth returned with her when God provided food again.
- Mary and Joseph brought their baby, Jesus, across several borders to Egypt to avoid Herod’s murderous intentions.
- Immigrants are created in God’s image.
- God tells the people of Israel, time and time again, to “welcome the stranger, for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.”
- Hospitality, particularly to the stranger, is a theme in both the Old and New Testaments, and it’s a central theme of Jesus’ ministry. The Greek word for hospitality is philoxenia, meaning “love of the other.”
- The treatment of immigrants in our midst is a relevant application for numerous biblical themes--stewardship, grace, biblical justice, evangelism, fellowship, unity, hospitality, the role of government, reconciliation, power, sin.
Still, immigrants find themselves on the margins. Society projects its struggles onto new immigrants. Xenophobia, stigma, and myth tend to color the reception of newcomers. A quick study of the history of U.S. immigration policy reveals that misinformation has resulted in harmful immigration laws that are not based on reality. The majority of new immigrants are Christians--and when one part of the body suffers, we all suffer.
Preaching about immigration is a way in which we can respond to God’s call to be truth tellers, to make the gospel relevant to our context today, and to be aware of the burdens that the body of Christ is bearing in our midst. Your congregation is hearing about immigration from lots of places--but they need most to hear about it from you.
Take the challenge! Submit a recording (with a written outline) or a complete manuscript of a sermon you preached about immigration to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 30, 2015. (Questions can be directed to that address as well.)
Sermon entries are expected to
- allow the Scripture text to lead the message.
- explicitly address modern immigration issues and their relationship to biblical justice, especially including local illustrations or effects of policy on local community.
- highlight the truth and hope of the good news of Jesus Christ.
- include practical “what you can do” applications.
- have been preached, preferably at a CRC or RCA congregation.
Sermons start with Scripture and speak an interpretation of Scripture that is relevant to one’s cultural context. We hope, as you pay attention to the real stories and facts of immigrants without legal status across the U.S., that you will find Scripture has a relevant word for this broken situation.
While you’re preparing your sermon, check out these these illustrations and stories for inspiration:
For additional cultural context, visit the OSJ immigration web page for resources, including a list of Bible references, mythbusters, and book suggestions. The Immigration Policy Center and g92.org are also great resources. For immigration information and resources in Canada, visit the Centre for Public Dialogue.
Juried prize: To celebrate your work, a panel of judges will offer $250 for first place, $150 for second place, and $100 for third place. A small gift card will be awarded to all participants.
People’s Choice award: Through social media, we’ll allow our followers to vote for the sermon that helped them think about immigration in a new way. The winner of the most votes will receive a $250 award.
All submissions will be posted online. People will then cast their votes, and both the people’s choice and juried prize winners will be announced on October 30, 2015.
Panel of Judges: Rudy Gonzalez, Thyra Van Keeken, Jose Macias
[Image: photo of RCA/ CRC pastor trip to the border to learn about immigration and explore how their churches will respond.Christy Berghoef]