Refugee Sunday 23.06.24

Reflection based on the Revised Common Lectionary readings

1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49

Sometimes, in the face of the many conflicts and situations forcing people to flee their homes, the difficulties facing refugees when they arrive in the UK, and/or our sorrow over what is happening to people we have come to care about, we can get discouraged and overwhelmed. We may think: “What can I do, small and insignificant as I am?”

The story of David and Goliath teaches us that the most humble and unlikely individual can overcome a giant, in the LORD’s strength.

Look at the description of Goliath: telling about his size and the arms he carries takes three verses in and of itself!  In the strength of those attributes, Saul taunts the Israelites, and they are afraid.

But David is not. It is not that he has confidence in himself alone – though his accounts of his life as a shepherd show a certain familiarity with danger and speak of his courage. In this case, however, his confidence is primarily in the Lord. He declares to Goliath: “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts” (v.45).

And so David goes to meet the giant. He rejects Saul’s arms – “I am not used to them” and takes only his humble slingshot and some stones. The Philistine mocks him: “Am I a dog that you come to me with sticks?” But David is not abashed. His trust is in God – and his hope is that in his very weakness, God will be glorified: “the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.” And God does.

We may think the gifts that we bring to helping those who seek sanctuary are small. But if our desire is to follow God’s commands – to love our neighbour as ourself, to welcome the stranger, to take the homeless into our homes – we can trust in God’s assistance. God may use small gifts in big ways: our ability to bake or cook might provide the means of welcoming people for a meal; our spare room might be a valuable sanctuary for someone who would otherwise be homeless; our ability to share the story of a friendship might convince a friend or neighbour to care about sanctuary seekers; our willingness to write to elected officials might convince them that rhetoric and policies that show care for refugees are worth exploring. We can ask God to show us what we can do to use our gifts to work towards a more welcoming and compassionate society – and we can be confident that, if we are honouring God in what we do, God will give us the strength and means to do it.


Psalm 9:9-20

Psalm 9, like many other places in the Bible, declares that “The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (v.9). and that God cares about injustice, persecution and suffering: “he does not forget the cry of the afflicted” (v.12)  and “the needy shall not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor perish forever.” (v 18) For people seeking sanctuary, it can be vital to be able to trust in God, even under difficult circumstances. Those of us standing alongside asylum seekers and refugees can also be reassured that, though suffering and injustice often seem in the ascendant, God hears and cares about people’s suffering and will act to bring about justice.

As Christians we are called to see and treat others as God does. We, too, are therefore called to listen to the stories of those who are afflicted and prayerfully to consider what we can do to help alleviate their suffering.

This Psalm also reminds us of a truth that it is vital to speak to earthly powers that cause suffering to the vulnerable. The God who commands us to welcome the stranger and to care for people in need not only provides strength to the weak, but also will judge the strong: “let the nations be judged before you. Put them to the test, O Lord; let the nations know that they are only human.” (vv.19-20).

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Paul describes some of the ways he had to suffer for the gospel (v. 4-5). Many Christians around the world today are also persecuted for their faith and have to endure beatings, imprisonment and other hardships. Some are forced to flee from their country for their own safety and the safety of their families. They become refugees. Their journeys to find refuge, like Paul’s journeys, are often marked by afflictions, hardships and calamities and require great endurance (v.4). Long distances on foot, perilous sea crossings in small boats, dangerously hidden in lorries, sleeping overnight in the open, or in crowded unsanitary camps, in all weathers can all feature. When a few finally arrive at our shores they are sadly often met by hostile border security, immigration officials working within a culture of disbelief and anti-immigrant political rhetoric. These refugees can surely identify with Paul’s words “We are treated as impostors, and yet are true” (v.8).

Of course, not all who seek refuge in the UK are persecuted Christians. There are many other reasons why people may need to leave their homes behind and migrate. Some are fleeing persecution on other grounds, such as sexual orientation, race or political affiliation, and some are escaping conflict. We should not forget that the UK receives only a tiny proportion of the world’s refugees – the vast majority are hosted by neighbouring countries. But some do come to the UK and claim asylum, as is their right under international law. May we open our hearts wide (v.13) to them, showing them dignity and respect as individuals, made in the image of God.


Mark 4:35-41

We can be certain that God cares and wants to help us. As the disciples faced the storm on the lake they woke Jesus up saying “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (v. 38). Of course he cared about them. And he not only cared, but had the power and authority to do something. “He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm” (v.39). If we know Jesus as our Lord and Saviour we have access to His power. He can work through us. We can do amazing things and we can show His love to others, including refugees.