Visible Tokens: Communion through a Chain Link FenceJanuary 16, 2017
Migration, borders, citizenship. These are ongoing topics of emotion and debate. Yet, people live at the heart of most weighty issues: men, women, and children whose lives demand that conversations move beyond the hypothetical. That’s what I experienced while in Tijuana, Mexico, teaching at an evangelism seminar with our WME Institute.
**Take a deep breath, this is not a post about policy or politics. It’s a post about people. And the Holy Spirit.
While I was in Tijuana, I had the opportunity to visit the wall that separates Mexico from the United States. To the west is the Pacific Ocean – a beautiful sight from either side. Jutting inland from the Pacific is the border wall, brightly painted with wonderful, urban art. A garden runs beside the wall, edging a plaza with steps leading down to the ocean. A wonderfully cheerful atmosphere until you begin to gaze more deeply.
If you look closely, you’ll notice a locked gate. It leads into a “no man’s land” about 30 yards wide between the barriers that separate the two countries. Once a month, the Mexican government opens the gate and allows families to enter. They cross those 30 yards where others – family members or friends – wait beyond the US barrier.
There is no gate on the US side. But for a while, though separated by wire and watched by US border patrol officers, families can talk, clasping fingers through the small gaps, connecting across the barrier that divides them.
Every month, on the day the gate opens, the Methodist Church is present – on both sides of the wall. There is conversation. There is prayer.
And there is Holy Communion.
Together, the pastor in Mexico and the pastor in the US lead people in an act that transcends borders and walls, division and separation. Simultaneously, they all share in the bread of heaven and the cup of salvation.
I talk often about the importance of signs, all those visible tokens of unseen realities that are spiritually significant, all those things – sometimes miraculous, but often ordinary – that point to Christ and his healing, reconciling, redeeming love. I believe these Holy Spirit-infused moments, when the thin veil of reality billows ever so slightly and we gain a glimpse of something larger and deeper than ourselves, are the moments that form and strengthen and sustain us in faith and in life.
Jesus told us the poor would be with us for a long time. Because following Jesus is a long haul, full life project, it’s the same with the good work we do on his behalf. That is why signs are so important.
Though the issues encountered by a visit to the Mexico-US border in Tijuana are larger than any one person, as followers of Jesus we work for God’s justice in our world. And amid that work, we gather, month after month, open to power of the Holy Spirit to move aside the veil, as we embody through the bread and the cup our faith in the One who transcends all barriers and levels all walls.