Sanctuary is a new house built by volunteers from faith-based organizations. Photo by Jesse Love, PNWUMC.

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for You.

 There has been a lot of talk lately about this idea of sanctuary. In light of the recent election season and fear-mongering toward those who don’t fit our definition of “us”, people of color, immigrants, and others are afraid. Some cities and many churches are exploring the idea of how to be sanctuary for people in our country fleeing persecution. It seems almost un-American to claim there are people in this country fearing for their lives, afraid of being persecuted for their sexual orientation or race, or facing the tearing apart of family and deportation.

Sanctuary in this context implies a “safe haven”, a city or a church where people can feel safe, be protected, live free of fear. It also implies that those of us with privilege will stand with the marginalized and use our privilege and power to oppose those who preach intolerance. In church language a sanctuary is a holy place, a place where we find God, and a place of worship. Is God calling us to join God as sanctuary?

What if “the church” and people who call themselves people of faith really lived as sanctuary? What would our churches look like and who would we meet in our “sanctuary”? Would our sanctuaries, both corporate and personal, be safe places, holy places, places of acceptance, and places free from fear and hate? Would we have the courage to stand up against evil and intolerance even it means the loss of privilege?

There will be more work done to prepare our churches and cities to be sanctuaries. Our churches might function as a place to live, or a stop on something like the Underground Railroad to connect immigrants and others to resources as they flee harassment. Whatever happens in creating sanctuary for those considered unwelcome, we should realize God calls us to welcome the alien.

God the Father, source of love and creator of the universe, considers every plant, animal, and human worthy. Jesus, the Christ, embodies and models this radical acceptance and love, and the Holy Spirit is God’s constant presence and reminder of grace and acceptance, for us, and all of creation. If we are in the flow of divine love, we cannot turn away from those whom God loves as equally as God loves us.

As we prepare for the arrival of an immigrant child, born in a stable because he and his family were not welcome, let us be mindful of all those who do not feel welcome. Let us be reminded of our own national history, that we are a country of immigrants, and that is a source of our strength. Perhaps God became human in the form of a helpless immigrant baby to show us how much God loves humanity in all its diversity. May we open our hearts, our minds, and our doors to those God loves.

Note: Sanctuary is also a warm, dry place, to call home. Please consider a donation to help rebuild homes in Central Washington lost to devastating wildfires in 2014-2015. Many families are still living in sheds and temporary shelter for the third winter in a row. If you want to help create sanctuary, click here.