Excerpted from Enough for All, a Lenten Guide for Lectionary Year B from the North Carolina Council of Churches.
To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
do not let me be put to shame;
do not let my enemies exult over me.
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
Make me to know your ways, O LORD;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long.
Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for your goodness’ sake, O LORD!
Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
In the beginning of the year, the week the Biden administration took office and halted immigrant deportations for 100 days, I was present at a socially distanced gathering where José Chicas, an immigrant who has been living in sanctuary for 1,305 days, more than three and a half years, walked out of sanctuary, got into his car, and drove home with his family.
José entered sanctuary in June 2017 inside the School for Conversion in Durham, a house on the property of St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church. In the 1980s, he had fled El Salvador during a civil war and came to the U.S. to seek asylum. Since then, he has been an integral part of the local community. It was only poor legal advice that caused José to skip his hearing and end up with a deportation order. From then, he regularly checked in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), was given a social security number, work permit, and driver’s license. 30 years later, the spring of 2017 when so much changed for our immigrant neighbors, ICE informed José that he needed to return to his home country.
More than 3 and half years later in sanctuary, José was finally able to leave thanks to the 100 day halt on deportations. The most amazing part of this day was when José stood next to Rosa Ortez Cruz, a woman who had lived in sanctuary from April 2018 until October 2020, finally able to leave when her deportation order was dismissed. José and Rosa stood next to each other and were able to talk in person for the first time. What a surreal moment.
As it is written in this Psalm, this prayer for guidance and deliverance, we must wholeheartedly trust in God, for God will guide us to our salvation. But is it enough to read this prayer, to say these words and expect change? Will it be enough to give ourselves to God, without living God’s word? It will only be enough when we can truly live by the words we pray and seek out positive change.
As I reflect on this day and think about the Psalm passage and our theme for this Lenten season, the ability for José to leave sanctuary may seem like enough, but it is not. It will be enough when José is granted a work permit, it will be enough when others who are living in sanctuary are able to leave, it will be enough when we see positive comprehensive immigration reform that allows immigrants, like José, a pathway to citizenship.
So, how do we get there? We get there when we have finally had enough and are willing to go above and beyond to advocate alongside our neighbors to accomplish positive change.
Lord, give us the strength to acknowledge when we have had enough. Grant us the courage we need to live out your word each and every day and allow us to come together by your teachings and follow in your footsteps. Amen