So, I need to brag on this guy Dustin for a bit.
This whole #TrendingAtRefuge series our church has been running – taking hashtags on social media and offering a theological perspective on them – couldn’t be easy on any pastor. It REALLY can’t be easy on a guy who is most at home expanding on Biblical history and putting common Bible stories in context. For a pastor who’s so young and a church that’s so new, the task he’s put in front of himself is incredibly daunting, and one where the temptation to simply fall into doctrinal or political line and offer cliched answers has to be real.
This man has been nothing short of a revelation these past five weeks. Tackling the church’s response to LGBT identity, institutional racism, and this week immigration, Dustin has patiently built a response to the culture around us that is at once orthodox and engaging, doctrinally sound and warm-hearted, true and welcoming. He’s leaned on history and scripture in kind, and he’s found that both resist pat answers, that political orthodoxy satisfies neither. He’s leaned on John 1:14 as a prayer, and he’s fulfilled that old pastor’s saw of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.
Today was, to me, the most challenging of the lot. Anybody can talk about immigration by telling stories of Ellis Island and immigrants entering the United States from Europe. Dustin starts at ANGEL ISLAND, and starts telling of the culture that ASIAN immigrants – particularly CHINESE immigrants – brought with them to California. He traced that back to the Gold Rush, and rattled off dates that I’d never heard where the response of that influx of Chinese turned from curiosity to hostility to racially-motivated immigration policy – and made vividly clear that the issues we have with racism long predate anything Donald Trump may have said while declaring for the presidency.
And connecting those dots within the history of Judaism and Christianity – to the commandments God gave the Israelites in their new home (see Exodus 22:21 for an example) to the edicts of the Jerusalem Council (in Acts 15) to not over-burden non-Jewish converts to Christianity – reveals a narrative in Christianity that, counter to what we hear in our church culture today, is always welcoming to the outsider, to the foreigner, to the immigrant.
I’ll make sure I link the message when it’s uploaded. I felt like I’d gone back to school, as much new as there was that I learned.
If I’ve got my math right, Dustin’s got one more week of this, and next week’s hashtag is going to be #MakeAmericaGreatAgain. It’s probably not going to fit a certain frontrunner’s prescription.
Dustin – from the bottom of my heart – thanks for making Refuge Church exactly that. I’m so grateful you’re my pastor.