World Day of Prayer, March 2013

We read in Matt.25:34,35 that Jesus speaks of  a time when the king says to those at his right hand: “Come you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

What peace and justice there would be in the world if this was always acted out.

A real movement towards equality between people would be achieved if people lived this way. As our situation in Australia stands, we do some really good work in this direction, and we also have areas where much work remains to be done. It is so good to be able to say that our Churches are very much involved in work for refugees who come to our shores, and for the poor and needy. In our own community of Anglesea, all our Church people would be aware of the work being done in Las Lomas, Peru.

For years we have had a connection with that community, largely through the efforts of our Baptist brothers and sisters. The whole Anglesea community got behind the “Christmas in July” dinner last year, which was a brilliant success as a wonderful night out, and as a fundraiser. The building of a school in Las Lomas has been a very fine achievement, and now there is an excellent project going for sponsorship of children to be educated there. We do not have the poor and needy right on our doorstep here in Anglesea, but we are doing something to better the lives of the poor in other places.

Of course we are aware of organizations in various places around Australia- such as the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, Rural Australians for Refugees and the Red Cross. These organizations work hard for the welfare of those who come to our country seeking safety from warfare, oppression, famine and economic disaster in their homelands. As christians, we rejoice that those support systems are available, and even more, that some families are taking refugees into their own homes while they find other accommodation and- hopefully- work. These are things we can be very pleased about.

But there is more to be done. There is a fairly constant negative buzz in the media about refugees. Sad to say, some voices particularly target Muslim people, as if they were a danger to our society and our way of life. The concept of freedom of speech is touted as the basis for allowing people to put forward views which are very negative towards the stranger and the alien. I particularly choose those words because scripture specifically says that these are the ones we must welcome and do justice towards.

We need to learn to live in harmony with one another. God requires of us that we love our neighbours. Of all people, Christians are called to show love to our fellow human beings. It is clear from what Jesus said that the most needy and the least regarded of people are the ones we are especially called to love. Whatever other sections of society think of us, this is what we are called to do. To love God, one another, and ourselves is the most fundamental calling of the Christian life. It is a calling to a way of life in which love is not only spontaneously felt sometimes, it is gradually learnt and lived out in all circumstances. To learn to love is a lifetime’s journey. We do well to be patient with ourselves on that journey, because there is always more for us to learn about how to love others, especially those quite different from ourselves. But as Christians, we set our feet upon that path, and watch and wait for what God will teach us along the way. Thanks be to God. Amen