The lion, the lamb, and the candidate

Oct 17, 2019 by

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Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro visited Edith Espinal at our church Tuesday morning.

He met with her privately for about 20 minutes, listening to her story, followed by a press conference at which Espinal and he spoke. He expressed his support for Espinal and his commitment to families in similar circumstances.

Local and national press showed up. So did lots of you. A strong showing of people old and young (who got to miss some school) declared by their presence that we stand with Edith.

The Columbus Dispatch covered the event, as did ABC6, Religion News Service and several other outlets.

A candidate for the most powerful office in the world visiting our sanctuary is cause for pause. After the main press conference, as people trickled back to where they needed to be that day, Secretary Castro continued speaking with the press. I snapped this photo which I feel captures some of the meaning of the moment.

Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro is surrounded by reporters in the sanctuary of Columbus Mennonite Church. — Joel Miller

Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro is surrounded by reporters in the sanctuary of Columbus Mennonite Church. — Joel Miller

What I like about this photo is the presence of our banner overlooking the press and the candidate for President of the United States. The text on the banner reads, “Their young ones shall lie down together Isaiah 11:7.” It comes from the passage that speaks of the wolf and the lamb, the calf and the lion living in harmony. This passage is often called “The Peaceable Kingdom.” The animals on the banner portray this not-yet-realized scene of historic enemies living in peace.

And in the foreground is the local and national press surrounding Castro, all attention focused on his comments. His words carry weight and substance. What he says streams through cables and wifi networks onto screens and into eyes and ears. A single phrase could be clipped, shared and memed. It elicits comments from pundits and social media.

One of the treasures of Anabaptism, I believe, is our historic wrestling with the relationship between the church and the state. We petition those in power to protect the most vulnerable among us, but we seek to enact this first ourselves as much as we are able.

We have hopes for good leaders, but don’t place our ultimate trust in the power of the nation state. The picture of the Peaceable Kingdom speaks of our higher allegiance, even as we welcome and urge the politics of our nation to move in this direction. We remember Jesus whose favorite title for himself was The Human One, who teaches us how to be human even if it conflicts with established structures.

We live within the prayer Jesus taught his friends which yearns for the kin-dom to come on earth — even as it already is in the realm we have called heaven.

Perhaps this picture evokes additional thoughts for you.

Tuesday was a good day. And I like this picture. And Edith really, really, just wants to go home.

Joel Miller is pastor of Columbus Mennonite Church and blogs at Phloem and Xylem, where this post first appeared.

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