A wandering Aramean was my father
Amidst daily reports of thousands of migrants attempting to reach Britain from Calais, regular columnist Andrew Bryant realises that migration has its roots in biblical times.
Every Christian should remember that their forebears in the faith were migrants, and God is very particular that we should not forget this.
Abraham left the city of Haram with all his family and followers and had to rely on the hospitality and welcome of strangers. In a time of famine, Joseph gathered his father and his brothers to the security of the land of Egypt. When the welcome of Egypt turned to exploitation and slavery their descendants set off once more, led by Moses, searching for a promised land. The journey was long, hard and dangerous, often they wondered if they would have been better staying in slavery.
For forty years they went from place to place, with only a tent to call home, and only survived thanks to the generosity of God. When finally they come to the Promised Land where they can settle, they are again and again reminded that the houses and vineyards they inherit come not from the labour of their own hands but from the generosity of God. The life they enjoy is God’s gift, not theirs by right.
Once they have become a settled people, the temptation is to forget their story, to forget the generosity of God and assume that all they have is down to the work of their own hands, and not for sharing. But time and time again they are reminded that precisely because they were a people who knew what it was like to be in desperate need they should always be especially mindful of the needs of the orphan, the widow and the alien and stranger in their midst.
Just as God looked after them in their hour of need they should behave likewise when they meet others in need. And that story is part of our story - God’s expectation on us has not changed with the passing of the generations.
Those who gather at the port of Calais are not a swarm, and are not some terrible invading horde but individuals in need, who have fled lives that none of us would have wanted to have borne. They have risked great danger in the hope of finding their promised land, a place where they can settle and make a better life for themselves.
They are no different from our forebears in the faith, and remembering our salvation history and seeing their need, God demands nothing less than we respond with generosity, compassion and understanding.
This is not a problem that will simply go away. It will not be solved by more fences, extra police or additional dogs; it just may be solved by us remembering that once we relied on the welcome of strangers and the undeserved generosity of God. Then, as now, the health of society is not measured by the number of ancient sites of worship but in the care shown to the orphan and the widow, the alien and the stranger.
The Port of Calais image above is by Romainberth (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The Revd Andrew Bryant is the new Canon for Mission and Pastoral Care at Norwich Cathedral. He was previously Team Rector of Portishead, Bristol, in the Diocese of Bath and Wells, and has served in parishes in the Guildford and Lichfield Dioceses, as well as working for twelve years with Kaleidoscope Theatre, a charity promoting integration through theatre for young adults with Down’s Syndrome.
You can read Andrew's latest blog entry here and can follow him via his new Twitter account @AndyBry3.
The views carried here are those of the author, not of Network Norwich and Norfolk, and are intended to stimulate constructive debate between website users.