Thought for the Week
Last month the BBC filmed Songs of Praise from Calais, where among the refugees a group of African Christians had built a temporary Church.
The decision brought howls of outrage from certain sectors of the media who saw it as encouraging illegal immigrants.
The Daily Mail complained that the Calais Church was Ethiopian Orthodox, didn’t sing proper hymns, and was an unsuitable place for Sally Magnuson to be sent.
But do we sing songs of praise merely for our own entertainment? Surely, we sing these songs to Jesus. And if we sing them to Jesus, where would he rather we sung them from?
If Jesus were producing Songs of Praise, I don’t think his first choice would be Stonelaw Church. He’d not be admiring our organ or complementing our choir.
No, we’d find him at the foodbank. He’d visit the job centre and hang out at the benefits office. And he’d be in Calais with the illegal immigrants, calling them “friend, disciple, brother”.
Jesus, after all, began life as Mary and Joseph fled from the violence of Herod’s regime and sought asylum in Egypt. What if he’d come seeking asylum in Britain today?
There are no right answers to the difficult problems of immigration – but there are certainly right attitudes.
It is right to listen to the songs and stories of those who have had to flee their homes. It is right to consider that they, like us, overwhelmingly want to live in freedom, work, and worship and raise their families. It is right to recognise that among them are Christian families fleeing persecution and violence in their own lands, just like Jesus did.
Today they come from Syria and Egypt, fleeing cruelties and dangers, just as Jesus did. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus pictures the day when he will call his people to him, and he will say to them “I was a stranger and you welcomed me”. Confused, they will ask “Lord when were you a stranger and we welcomed you?” And he will reply “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Whether we sing songs of praise in Stonelaw Church, or in a Camp in Calais, we who are Christians are members of that same family. And we sing the same songs of praise. Please pray for all displaced persons today, and that God will grant wisdom and compassion to those called to welcome them. Alistair May Stonelaw Parish Church