Back to School
“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” – John 10:16 (NRSV)
It was the first week of school in Morton, Mississippi. When the afternoon bell rang releasing kids from school, no parents came, because they had been arrested in an ICE raid at nearby chicken processing plants.
No aunts and uncles came, because they had also been arrested. No neighbors came, because they too had been taken.
The whole flock of undocumented workers, 680 people in all, had been rounded up and penned in, leaving their lambs in the wilderness. Children wept outside of schools, pleading with whomever would listen that their parents were good, hardworking people and not criminals, pleading for their families to be reunited. The raid, planned for more than a year, was the hammer end of cruel immigration policies and racist rhetoric, designed to make us fear people who cross borders only looking to protect and provide for their children.
John’s Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd. He says he has only one flock—and everybody’s in it. This scripture has been read to justify Christian supremacy, forcing discipleship through fearmongering, threats of hell, even torture and killing. But that is a misread that flagrantly violates everything else we know about Jesus.
Jesus himself was forever crossing borders visible and invisible, tearing down fences and walls, and enlarging pastures so that all could live in safety, peace and plenty. He is the one who said, in resurrection, “tend my lambs.” If we are reading our Bible in a way that causes us to hate or fear any group of people based on country of origin, and to turn a deaf ear to the cries of the children who belong to us all, it’s time we went back to school.
Jesus, may we give up our tribes, and flock to you. Amen.
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister of First Congregational Church UCC in Berkeley, California, and the author of the best-selling Real Good Church, Standing Naked Before God, and her newest baby, Bless This Mess: A Modern Guide to Faith and Parenting in a Chaotic World.