Some of you may have guessed, I’m a bit of a history buff. I enjoy learning and knowing the history of people and places. History is one of those accessible ways we come to be familiar with what goes into making a person who they are or forming a group of people’s perspective and ethos. History has a way of reminding us of what’s important to hold on to, and what’s important to discard.
There is a great deal of history that has taught us to discard the really horrible parts of what we have been capable of. Let me give a few examples…we would never think it appropriate to rape and pillage a country we won a victory over today. After World War II, the United States began the process of helping to put Europe and Japan back together, not exploiting the countries or the populace. That hasn’t always been true though. The continent of Africa has been exploited by Western countries for several centuries. Its people, its resources, its land, have been devoured by the Western dominant culture. History has shown us this is not the way we should act. When Europeans landed on the North American continent, they set about conquering and subduing the native population, taking the resources to enrich themselves. That’s how it had been done in times past. To the victor belong the spoils.
As followers of Jesus, we are taught to think and act differently. We are taught to treat strangers and vulnerable people with dignity, honor and love. In Deuteronomy 10: 17-19, we’re told “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
Through our own history and through God’s Word to us, we know how we are to treat one another. It is time for us to live up to our potential, to learn from our shared history of grievous behavior toward the children of God, and to be the image of God who lives in us.
Today, on this day in history, June 17, 1885, a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States arrived in New York. It was a tribute to two countries forged in the search for liberty and justice for all people. The time of the 1880’s was a turbulent time full of social unrest. It was in this time that the statue arrived and was erected. It was this symbol of freedom, and of welcome. One cannot read Emma Lazarus’ words emblazoned on this symbol without feeling the weight of history, and believing we should make history with how we treat one another.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Blessings and Peace,