Deeply embedded in the faith memory of all Jews and Christians is the command to ‘love the stranger’, and this command comes always with a reminder, that we were once strangers ourselves.
This may not be our own personal experience, but our lives are governed by a story far greater than own selves.
Our great story begins with Abraham, called by God to leave his homeland in what is now modern-day Iraq and to travel.
Our story continues with the people who left Egypt to escape a tyrant, to journey through a wilderness in search of a promised land.
Our story belongs to Daniel, exiled in Babylon, far from home. Our story is carried by Jesus himself who had nowhere to lay his head.
We are descended from strangers, and we are glad to offer true hospitality and welcome to those who come to us as strangers.
We also listen to what Jesus said about welcoming the stranger, in one of his parables. He said that ‘just as you did to one of the least of these… you did it to me’ (Matthew 25:40).
This makes our welcoming of every stranger a ministry to Christ himself. In looking into the face of the stranger we see someone with the dignity and worth of a saviour.
But Christians are also never content to give welcome and emergency help alone. We also always want to ask ‘why?’ Why is anyone suffering, and how can we address the root causes of human need and injustice?
Archbishop Hélder Câmara famously said: ‘When I give food to the poor they call me a saint, when I ask why they are poor they call me a communist.’
Christ summons us to ask why any human being needs refuge, why anyone must travel at such risk, far from home, leaving so much behind.
Christian Aid began its work as Christian Reconstruction in Europe, offering a compassionate response to refugees in Europe after the Second World War and has experience of seeing the connections between the great story of the Christian faith and the needs of the world around us.
The story is older than Christian Aid, and this story can help us face the latest challenge, but also frame a future hope, for a world in which all God’s children shall live in safety and have a home.
Some of you in this parish have supported those who find themselves as refugees in a very direct way by giving generously to the collection of clothes and toiletries which were taken to Calais in the last few weeks. News of that trip is included in this magazine.
May we remember the call of Jesus to ‘welcome the stranger’ and work for the dawning of a better world, a world where love has no borders or bounds. We might do this by supporting Christian Aid’s campaign to support refugees, by campaigning, signing petitions, lobbying our politicians and by praying, always praying.
‘Deal with each other justly, do not oppress the refugee, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood. Journey in all the ways I command you, that all may go well with you.’ (Jeremiah 7, 6-7)