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Summary: This sermon draws a comparison between the civil rights movement and the call for immigration reform for full citizen in the context that the citizen that matters the most is our citizenship in heaven.

Sermon Title – What’s your immigration status?

Sermon Text - Philippians 3:17- 4:1

17 Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21He will transform the body of our humiliation so that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. 1Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

Since its inception the United States of America has struggled with developing a just criteria for immigrants seeking citizenship, particularly as it relates to people of color. The roots of this struggle lie in America’s arduous history as it relates to slavery. In 1776 as the American colonies were preparing to separate from Great Britain, Thomas Jefferson wrote what has become almost a sacred document for not only Americans but for oppressed people across the globe who seek freedom, justice and an opportunity to have a better life.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence he penned the prophetic words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and the fathers of America signed it, they had no idea that they would be motivating marginalized people across the world, generation after generation to seek life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness because even though the Declaration of Independence professed that all men were created equal in reality only white men were considered to be full citizens when America was born.

When America was born slaves had no rights and free people of color and women had few if any rights. Even after slavery ended people of African decent continued to experience discrimination and were denied full citizenship rights as a result of Jim Crow laws that were pervasive across the land. My former pastor Rev. Joseph Lowery use to put it this way, because of the laws of the land and the hearts of the people, “If you were yellow you were mellow, if you were brown you might be able to stick around but if you were black you had to get back!”

Nevertheless, God is a God who loves the oppressed and He is the King of Justice. So the Holy Spirit empowered people like Rosa Parks, Medgar Evans, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. who initiated, formed and led the civil rights movement, which dismantled legalized segregation in the 1960’s. Finally, descendants of African slaves had full citizenship rights in America.

But, the battle continues. Every year thousands of people from around the world flee their home country and travel to America because it is perceived as a modern day promise land. Most of you know just what I am talking about. Most of you left Sierra Leone or Liberia and traveled to America …

Because your home country was being ravaged by violence due to civil war. Some of you left your home countries in West Africa or the West Indies because of economic conditions. But, no matter what reason we find ourselves in America today we all want full citizenship.

We all want to live in a land flowing with milk and honey, where we are not denigrated or made to feel less than someone else just because we happen to be a different color. We all want to be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin. We all want to live in a land where we are treated with dignity, respect and justice. We are all made in God’s image and we rightfully expect to be treated like children of God.

We all want to be treated as full citizens who can enjoy Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. None of us wants to fear being deported or having someone we love deported. None of us wants to have to work harder and smarter than our co-workers and still receive less money and be the first laided-off because our employers are exploiting us because of our immigration status. None of us wants to live in fear day after day and night after night.

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