Andrew Greene from RISE shared his personal story and journey at the CTK on Sunday, September 23rd, which marks the first of a series of Sundays in welcoming the stranger in our midst. Edward Williams (also from RISE) provided cultural music and songs and members of RISE help to grace the occasion. Here is an excerpt from the closing remarks of Andrew’s sermon.
We know that today, with the influx of refugees, people have the tendency to resist and say spaces are filled, Migrants should be kept out of the ‘inn’, in order to preserve jobs, health and welfare services.
There is a deep sense of insecurity in an environment of austerity, where economic cuts have hit people hard, and there is cold-heartedness in reaction. (we all know what fear is when spoken by politicians and mainstream media, but what does it mean when we talk about refugees)?
In Leviticus 19:33-34 “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt”.
At this time, it is also worth remembering that Jesus of Nazareth is in the Bible presented exactly as one that would be rejected as a refugee child. Jesus’ earliest years were then, according to the Gospel of Matthew, spent as a refugee in a foreign land, and then as a displaced person in a village a long way from his family’s original home.
We also know the story in the Gospel of Matthew, when the wise men come from “the East” to Herod, the Roman king of Judaea, looking to honor a new ruler and led by a “star”. We saw Herod’s reaction and pre-emptive strike against the people of Bethlehem and its environs. He kills all boys under two years of age in an atrocity that is traditionally known as “the massacre of the innocents” (Matthew 2.16–18). Joseph has been forewarned in a dream of Herod’s intentions to kill little Jesus, and the family flees to Egypt. It is not until Herod is dead that Joseph and Mary dare return, and then they avoid Judaea: Joseph “was afraid to go there” (Matthew 2.22) because Herod’s son is in charge. Instead they find a new place of refuge, this time, in Nazareth of Galilee, far from Bethlehem.
As God’s beloved people, we must not be discouraged to continue to meet refugees with welcoming and love. We should persevere in giving hope to those displaced by violence, war or other threats.
At Christ the King, and the broader community, many have been newcomers themselves at some point in their lives.
Remember that those who seek refuge in a culture different from their own, bring a taste of their culture and experiences that can be rewarding, and they are an integral part of that shiny rainbow of God’s creation.
I came to Christ the King (Episcopal Church), having been welcomed to worship by one of your own, and I have enjoyed the warm embrace of love by all. I must say, the diverse nature of the church, its glaring example of its intercultural ambiance and nature, is such a shining example that speaks volumes of the church’s adherence to welcoming others.
We must share this gift to others, as a perfect example and an experience that provides the space for others to feel welcome, to be loved, to even thrive, that which creates meaningful experience for the uprooted. Through acts of kindness and welcoming we can synthesize the best of our cultures and traditions with others and teach and learn from each other to produce a better nation and world.
I encourage you, in whatever way you can to not look away but welcome refugees and help them find jobs, learn English, provide a mother and child with information for a clean, safe place to sleep.
I encourage the congregation to make a commitment to our new refugee and immigrant ministry (RISE) by making a prayerful gift for our RISE, our intercultural Sundays which includes not just Refugees, but immigrants and Asylees.
We pray for the safety, care, and dignity for all those fleeing from unrest. We have faith that through God’s power and love, He can transform the lives of those fleeing horrifying danger. We ask God to provide protection and comfort to refugees on their journey, to strengthen them with hope for the future, and to use us, His children, to extend His love and welcome to refugees in our communities. Amen