Thoughts for Wednesday 19th August, 2020

Psalm 87; Isaiah 66:18-23; Matthew 8:1-13


Wednesday 19 August


Our Psalm and Old Testament reading, from the final chapter of Isaiah, today, mention ten places between them. Psalm 87 has Egypt, Babylon, Philistia, Tyre and Ethiopia; and Isaiah 66 has Spain, Libya, Lydia, Tubal and Greece. But while these are places which extend far and wide across the ancient world, the focus of both passages is on Jerusalem, as a place (including a metaphorical place i.e. the Church) where all nations meet.


The Bible is the Church’s greatest resource. And yet, one of the things we quickly come to realise when we study it in any great depth, is just how possible it is to take passages such as these, and then ‘use’ them seemingly equally validly in order to make opposite claims about the nature and the will of God. So be wary!


As a preacher, on the one hand I could argue that Christianity is an exclusive faith, belonging only to those who are prepared to obey (see Psalm 87:4), and who otherwise will be punished by God if they don’t (see Isaiah 66:19). On the other hand, however, I could argue that Christianity is an inclusive faith instead.


My own tendency (and I know others differ) is to always seek to be as inclusive as possible. And so, if these were our texts for a Sunday morning, I would be inclined to speak about how far away Spain and Babylon actually are; to speak about the rich mix of cultures that brings people from three continents together in one place (whether physical, spiritual or both); and to highlight the plight of the now over 25 million refugees in our world who have no place they are able to call their home (except, maybe, the Church).


I’ve been disappointed, although not surprised, by the coverage (and scapegoating) in our media of those seeking to reach our shores recently. Disappointed because under international law, people fleeing war, violence and persecution have every right to seek asylum here. Disappointed because if we provided safe, legal routes for these people then, not only would they not be exposed to so much danger, but this would thwart the criminality currently associated with their passage. And disappointed as well because whenever we have welcomed refugees and asylum seekers in the past, and adequately supported them, then society itself here in Scotland has always been the beneficiary –


– which important lesson I have been learning over a number of years now serving on Glasgow Presbytery’s ‘Ecumenical Relations and Interfaith Matters Committee’.


Let us pray (and let’s do so by reflecting on Brian Bilston’s clever poem, simply titled Refugees):


They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or me
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
Welcome here
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
They cannot
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way

(now read from bottom to top)




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