First Thoughts on the Lectionary, December 29

Matthew 2:13-23
2:13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”
2:14 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt,
2:15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
2:16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.
2:17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
2:18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
2:19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said,
2:20 “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.”
2:21 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.
2:22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee.
2:2There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

When I have had extended time to do an orientation with a group going to Nicaragua, I have done a sequence of three workshops:
1. The History of Nicaragua, looking at the role that foreign powers have played in that history (Spain, England, The United States, the IMF)
2. The History of Biblical Israel, looking at the role foreign powers played in that history: (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, the Greek empire, the Roman Empire.
3. Then I have asked:, where do we find similar historical patterns, characters, ways that the people have been treated by their leaders? Where does inspiration and revelation come from? Etc. How might a Nicaraguan campesino, aware of the history we discovered in the first workshop, read the history of Israel in the Bible?

In every group where I have done this sequence of workshops, there is one correlation everyone mentions: Somoza is Herod. The youngest Somoza dictator was trained at West Point. Herod was trained in the Court in Rome. Somoza was Nicaraguan, from the same town as Agusto Sandino. Herod was Jewish; his mother was from the ruling Hasmonean dynasty and his father was from Idumea, acquired by Israel in 104 B.C. and was advisor to the Hasmonean leaders.
But Somoza’s authority came from the U.S. and Herod’s authority came from Rome.
When power is perceived as illegitimate and retained by force, those in power tend to narrow their circle of trusted supporters and engage in acts of random violence and persecution. We read about Herod’s paranoia and consequent violence in the passage in Mathew.

When I have led workshops on emigration/immigration and the Bible and asked for examples of Biblical characters emigrating because of political persecution, this passage from Mathew is one of the first one mentioned.
U.S. support for Somoza was not an isolated incident in our foreign policy in Central America. U.S. support for authoritarian leaders in Central America has been the norm for the past century. Like Herod, these leaders have engaged in random acts of persecution against their own people.

We should all be familiar with the wave of immigrants from Guatemala and El Salvador who came to this country to escape the search and destroy missions of their governments against mass sections of the population in the 1980’s.
The most recent wave of immigrants which have come because of wide spread violence in their country emanating from an insecure government, kept in power by backing from the United States, have come from Honduras.
Did you know that?
My oncologist used to go to Honduras every year with the Rotary Club of New Hampshire. They provided medical services and used the Peace Corps as translators. Two years ago the Peace Corps had to pull out it’s program because of the wide spread violence in the country. I don’t think my oncologist has any idea of why.
Some History:
President Zelaya, of the traditional ruling party aligned with the oligarchy, broke away from his party structure and enacted reforms. As he was leaving office, he proposed putting on the ballot a non-binding referendum asking the people if they wanted to convene a new constitutional convention to replace their constitution (their 5th) which had been written in 1982 just after the U.S. had occupied the country to be a base for its war against the Sandinista’s of Nicaragua.
The military removed Zelaya, an act they would never have done without the approval of the U.S. military in Honduras. Initially, Obama said the U.S. does not support military Coups. But then he was informed by our military and Secretary of State, and the U.S. became “neutral” on the subject. The U.S. has one of it’s largest military basses in Honduras, and it has grown tremendously since the coup, as has the violence in the country.
As we read Mathew, let us not so much be concerned about these events “fulfilling scripture” as these events repeating patterns of oppression and injustice.

Let us look to our place in this history.

Let us welcome the young families from Honduras into our country until legitimate governments are instituted in their homeland.

Let us cease from being Rome, supporting Herods because of their allegiance to our global designs.

Let us welcome and protect and shelter these holy families who seek sanctuary in our land.

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About Newell Hendricks

I have lived a good life. Maybe a counterculture life, maybe a normal life. I have written operas, built houses, been involved with cross-cultural education between Latin America and the U.S, and hardly ever had a job I have helped raise two wonderful children with my amazing wife. It's been a good ride. And I go to church. I've just finished a book of stories from my life, I am still connected to an organization in Nicaragua that promotes sister relationships between communities, faith communities, or schoold, and to the extent that my cancer doesn't pull me down, am attempting to share some of what I have learned, or at least tried out. Welcome, and let's share.
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