Lection Connection - Spirit Sightings

August 25, 2019: Out of the Shadow

From Paul Turley


There are now reports being released showing that the numbers of refugees seeking asylum in Europe are on the rise in mid-2019 for the first time in a few years – following a period of decline – mostly due to more restrictive policies in many European countries. 

Four years ago, then Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot, in response to a question about whether newly arrived asylum seekers in Australian waters would be resettled in Australia, said, “Nope, nope, nope. If you want to start a new life, you come through the front door, not through the back door.”

It is difficult to know how to respond to these kinds of heartless comments isn’t it? The first thing we must say is that it is not illegal to seek asylum. An asylum seeker is a person who makes a formal request for asylum in another country because they fear their life is at risk in their home country. This formal request is both legal and necessary; especially today when more people find themselves to be refugees and asylum seekers than at any other time since the human catastrophe that was The Second World War. There is no back door. Every seeker of asylum and safety is coming in through the front door.

The second thing we must say is that comments like these and those made by others such as Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister (who calls refugees “Muslim invaders”) and by U.S. President Donald Trump (whose tweets are numerous and derogatory), all seem to ignore the absolute life-and-death situation in which people across the world find themselves. It is as if these leaders are trying to paint a false picture of a functioning, compassionate, and rapid process that welcomes and resettles refugees and asylum seekers. While there are systems in place, they are too slow and too poorly resourced and too lengthy, leaving people suffering in limbo or, in Australia’s case, incarcerated for years.

Speaking about a “front door” and a “back door” paints a picture of refugees and asylum seekers as being motivated by something other than desperate humanitarian reasons. It suggests that perhaps they aren’t really desperate, that things aren’t really as bad in their home countries as they say, that they should “wait their turn in line.” 

We have systems in place, this story goes, and we need to be faithful to our systems. That there is a time, but it’s not now and there is a place but it’s not here. 

It is no real stretch to see these arguments in our text for this week. The world we have built and the structures we have developed become not tools to build community but weapons to attack those who we fear will make demands on us and our world.

Let us not be people who can quote the rules but not welcome the stranger, the orphan and the widow. 

Explore…Luke 13:10–17

  • Jesus’ work of healing resulted here and in many other places in the gospels with people “praising God.” What works of grace and healing that your faith community is involved in result in people praising God? 
  • What rules or conventions in your faith community can you examine to see where they result, often inadvertently in those rules or conventions taking precedence over the often messy and unstructured needs of people?

God, thank you for the mental capacities and imagination we have to develop structures, traditions, and systems. Remind us that these structures, as good as they are, are simply scaffolding to allow us to build and live in the true community of love and justice that is your desire for all people. Amen.

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