World Refugee Day

There’s nothing new under the sun.

That’s often what I think when I hear someone harking back to what ‘things were like in their day’. As if somehow there was a better day, a brighter day sometime before us.

As if relationships never used to fracture, as if wars didn’t use to shatter the spirit and will of innocent people, as if the poor didn’t used to be oppressed and trodden down and sneered at.

As if once upon a time we were all so much better than this.

Today we mark World Refugee Day. We stand with the 65 million refugees across our world who are displaced from their home.

And we remember that there is nothing new under the sun.

The very story of our salvation is interweaved with a people wandering, with a God who chose to enter the story of humanity through a family who would flee their home and be found strangers in a foreign land.

Jesus meets us in the place of exclusion, he comes to those outside the gate, those who may not be welcomed in. It’s the beginning place of our story.

And yet the prophet Isaiah writes that Jesus is always doing a new thing:

Behold I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

You see there’s always a wilderness and there’s always a wanderer but the Jesus way is always taking new ground, breaking down into the dry earth and drawing water for all those who would draw near.

There is nothing new under the sun but there are always new ways to love, new ways to show the grace and glory of God – the colours of his love are infinite – you’ll never get through them all.

So as we stand alongside the ancient wanderers, those driven from their homes by war and injustice and everything that’s wrong with this messed up and crying world, Riverbank have chosen a new thing. We’ve chosen the Jesus way that says,

Look at what you have in your hands… what do you have in your hands?

We’ve got people and grace and good news to share. We’ve got people who can speak Arabic and people who can teach English. We’ve got people with the gift of hospitality and people with the gift of administration. We’ve got people with big hearts and tough soles of their feet – they’re up for this walk. We’ve got dreamers and faithbearers, we’ve got negotiators and financiers. We’ve got men with strong hands and women with love in their eyes.

This is what we have. This is what we always have if we would just trust – we’ve always got enough to welcome because grace always overflows through the people of God.

When we follow his lead, when we trust his prompting, we find that He is always enough.

He is doing a new thing. In the wasteland and the wilderness and this age old story of broken and forsaken people left with nothing; God is always singing a new song, calling His people to respond in new ways of radical hospitality, because when we welcome the refugee, the wandered and the stranger… we really welcome Jesus.

It’s why Riverbank are pursuing this God-vision of Community Sponsorship – a Home Office scheme which will enable us to welcome, love and support a Syrian refugee family as they are resettled in the UK. With the support of Church Response for Refugees, we are stepping out onto a new road; not abandoning the old one but stretching our imagination as to the Greatness of God and the depth of his love and compassion for his creation and people.

As part of World Refugee Day, Church Response for refugees are encouraging everyone to do 20 somethings, on today the 20th June, to stand with the 20,000 refugees that the UK government has pledged to resettle by 2020. So I’m going to splash my way through 20 lengths of the local pool, my friend Johnny is running for 20 minutes in what we imagine will be 20 degree heat, and you can find out more about the creative things people are doing here.

So let’s do a new thing. 20 new things maybe! But let’s tune our ear to where the Spirit is moving, to where God is calling us. There are so many unknowns in this journey ahead of Riverbank, so many ways I feel we lack, so many missing pieces right now to the puzzle of how we make this real.

But I perceive a new thing and I believe in a God who births rivers in the wilderness. Who brings life out of death and joy out of sorrow. A God who is with us and for us and who never rests or gives up but is always moving forward, leading us into new adventures and creating new opportunities; seeking out the broken so that he might rescue and redeem all that has been lost.

Ellie Hughes, 20 June 2017