Today, we will hear from Erin Raffety:
My confession is that I’d never thought very deeply about the kingdom of God on earth until my feet were practically straddling the US-Mexico border in the summer of 2003. I remember this as one of my first experiences in my internship with Presbyterian Border Ministries in Agua Prieta, Mexico—that the Rev. Chuy Gallegos drove us across the border in his tattered truck to plant our feet in the dust of Mexico and peer through the bars at the U.S., from whence we came.
Opening his Bible to Ephesians 2, Chuy read, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was…to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility…Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.”
Such words in such a place is what my Mexican brothers and sisters might call a “choque,” an ontological collision of sorts, where one cannot quite grasp how peace can be preached whilst border patrol cars zoom past, lights flashing, hunting for foreigners and aliens to deport from the Arizona desert. It was hard to believe the good news that Christ had destroyed the barrier, when the wall loomed large and long, our subsequent administrations threatening to extend it from the Pacific ocean to the gulf of Mexico.
But then I looked not through the bars, but at the face of my neighbor and saw that this small communion of Christians was an enmeshing of Mexican and American, reconciled to one another through a common savior. It was to our small group that day, that Chuy purposively whispered that we cannot wait for the kingdom of God to come, but we must be the kingdom of God on this very border—right next to an ugly wall that preaches a myth that we are to remain separate, that we are meant to have different rights, that we are meant to dwell alone. The scripture closed by declaring just the opposite, “In him, you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
I have been called since that day to tell the story of lives on the border, of injustice, pain, and suffering, but also of the necessity that we allow God to build us together, often against our wills, to become the kingdom, the dwelling place for God to live by his spirit. It is the most basic lesson of Christianity, that we are vulnerable apart from one another and from God, incomplete without love for our neighbor, but also the hardest. May God grow God’s vision for the kingdom to be one that destroys barriers, and makes us fellow citizens who together bring about peace in Christ’s name.
Erin Raffety is a senior M. Div. student at Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating in May 2008. A 2004 graduate of Davidson College, Erin has served the church with Presbyterian Border Ministries on the US-Mexico border, and with YouthWorks in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. She has also worked in Washington, D.C. with Bread for the World and the ONE Campaign.