Welcome to this online service of worship for Craigmillar Park and Reid Memorial churches. Today, 20 June 2021, has been designated as Sanctuary Sunday; it is also United Nations World Refugee Day. Our readings focus on those in peril on the sea in the Bible and we take the opportunity to remind ourselves of the need to welcome and support the storm-tossed and the frightened, recognising our common humanity, all created in the image of God.
We start with a call to worship which reminds us that people have been exiled and refugees for many thousands of years. Crying because so many loved ones died. Crying because houses and possessions are destroyed. Crying because the future does not look the way it was hoped to look . Crying out of exhaustion. Crying out of homesickness.
Call to WorshipBy the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’
How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land? (from Psalm 137)
Hymn 251: I, the Lord of sea and sky
Gracious and merciful God,
we gather on World Refugee Day in one heart and mind
to pray for all families and individuals
who have left or fled their country, their land, their homes, seeking safer and better lives.
We lift up to You their hopes and dreams, their fears and anxieties,
and all their needs and necessities,
that they may be protected on their storm-tossed journeys
and that they may reach safe haven.
We pray that their dignity and rights may be fostered, honoured and upheld,
and they may be welcomed with open arms
into generous and compassionate communities.
We ask Your blessing also on those whom they have left behind –
family, friends, loved ones, whom they may never see again.
For every refugee who safely reaches this country,
there are countless others who cannot leave and who must remain in harm’s way.
Protect them, Lord.
As refugees find a new life here in Scotland,
we pray that they and their families will settle here;
we pray for the children, starting a new school and making new friends;
we pray for the adults, learning a new language and a new culture;
we pray for those helping them to find their feet in their new lives.
Lord, bless refugees and displaced persons everywhere,
and bring an end to the strife in our world
which sees so many people driven from the homes and the friends and family they love.
Rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, we pray as our Saviour taught us:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
from Psalm 107
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures for ever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story –
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.
Some went out on the sea in ships;
they were merchants on the mighty waters.
They saw the works of the Lord,
his wonderful deeds in the deep.
For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
that lifted high the waves.
They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
in their peril their courage melted away.
They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
they were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people
and praise him in the council of the elders.
Mark 4: 35-41
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’
They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’
HYMN 253: Inspired by love and anger
Grant, O Lord, that in these words, we may behold the living Word, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Both of our readings today talk of storms at sea (or in the case of the Gospel reading, the inland Sea of Galilee). Both storms seem particularly violent: the Psalmist talks of a tempest and Mark talks of a furious squall, wild enough to cause the disciples – who were, remember, experienced fishermen – to wake their passenger and plead for help. In both cases, that help was forthcoming. God responded to prayers, the storms were stilled and the travellers reached home safely.
Have you heard the last 18 months or so described as a ‘perfect storm’? We have had Covid-19 and Brexit, with consequent upheavals, uncertainty, change, loss and fear. Life as we knew it has become precarious, we have missed seeing and hugging friends and family, we have been confined to our homes and local areas and have even missed the comfort and solace of regular in-person worship. Some people have lost loved ones, jobs and livelihoods have been placed at risk and our young people’s hopes and dreams have, in some cases, been compromised. We are entitled, I think, to feel a little sorry for ourselves.
But maybe just a little sorry. Today is Sanctuary Sunday and World Refugee Day. Across the world, so many people are on the move, fleeing from persecution, war, famine and economic fragility. They too have had to cope with Covid, without some of the advantages we have living in the prosperous developed West. Not for them the comfort and relief of a blue envelope promising easy and safe vaccination. They too have lost or left behind loved ones, perhaps never to see them again, they have abandoned their jobs and professions and placed not just their futures but their very lives at risk. Some of them have experienced all too literal storms. We have become familiar from news reports of people crossing water to reach a safe haven. But did you know that the Mediterranean contains the bodies of upwards of 35,000 people – babies, children, women and men – who have drowned in trying to reach a place of safety and hope? That is a shocking and shaming statistic, perhaps one to keep in mind as we pine for sunshine holidays around a sea which, for us, inspires only happy thoughts.
The bright orange of life jackets is often the only brightness in the bleak and heartbreaking stories we watch on the nightly news. Refugees deserve our sympathy and support and it is heartening to read of and see the efforts that some countries and many people of faith make to save lives and to provide homes and a warm welcome to these strangers. Remember though that the experience of the Church throughout the world is that migration enriches our common life, both secular and sacred. Refugees must never be defined by victimhood, but should be recognised as human beings, created in God’s image and with as much chance to flourish and thrive as anybody. God grant that our governments may recognise their responsibility in this regard and may act to change the public discourse around immigration and asylum seekers to one more befitting a country with Christian roots.
There are many people, this Refugee Sunday, who can tell us of being cast out because of their faith, their race, their sexuality, their political views, because of the circumstances of war or another disaster or simply because they are in the wrong place. Our readings tell us that, in the storms of life, God is with them just as God is with us in the storms of our lives. The psalm tells us that the voyagers “were glad when it grew calm, and God guided them to their desired haven”. Mark tells us that faith in God leads to peace, peace in the time of sorrow, peace in the time of loss, peace in the time of anxiety. Jesus, our anchor, holds us in the storms of life, even in our own ‘perfect storm’. If we are grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love, our reward will be safety, security and peace.
We need not, therefore, fear the storm. We can turn to Jesus. We can cry for help – and it will come. We too can be guided to our desired haven. In the certainty of Jesus’ love, we must act as he would expect. We must not forget those refugees and migrants who experience literal storms and who do not reach that safe haven on earth; we pray that they find peace as they rest in the Lord’s hands. And we pray also for those who do reach shore safely, our sisters and brothers, that we might welcome them as Jesus would, with generosity, kindness and love.
We often sing the hymn ‘Let us build a house where love can dwell’. Remember these words from that hymn:
Here the outcast and the stranger
bear the image of God’s face:
let us bring an end to fear and danger:
All are welcome,
All are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.
May God sail with refugees as Jesus sailed with the disciples.
May Christ, himself a childhood refugee, protect those who are forced out of their
homeland into peril on the sea.
May the Holy Spirit inspire and lead us as we work to extend Christian hospitality to all God’s children in need.
God of family,
we bring before You the parents who are weeping and lamenting,
who are waiting for their children,
whose trace is lost in the sea, in the desert, on railway tracks,
in shipping containers and uncertainty:
men, women and children who had escaped from the war zones,
the famine and poverty of this world ,
with the hope for a better, safer life.
God of life,
we bring before You our lament for the dead, stranded at the borders of safety,
who died fleeing through deserts, over mountains and seas.
We call to You and join in the cry of all those who sought justice
and a better life for themselves and their children and perished in the process.
God of justice,
we bring before You political leaders, advisers and decision-makers
who hold the fate of others in their hands.
Make them aware of the causes of migration and flight.
Keep their consciences alive so that refugees are offered protection and dignity.
Let them agree rules of residence that are based on human rights
and guided by solidarity and compassion.
God of compassion,
give us the strength to be witnesses of the suffering of the world
and fill us with the fire of Your spirit to renew our efforts to serve those in need. Give us the grace to welcome, learn about and share our lives
with those of your children who come to live in our communities.
We ask these things in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ
HYMN 198: Let us build a house where love can dwell
The compassing of God be upon us,
the compassing of God, of the God of life.
The compassing of Christ be upon us,
the compassing of the Christ of love.
The compassing of the Spirit be upon us,
the compassing of the Spirit of grace.
The compassing of the Sacred Three be upon us,
the compassing of the Sacred Three protect us,
the compassing of the Sacred Three preserve us and all God’s children.
This service was prepared by Pauline Weibye, Session Clerk at Craigmillar Park
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Worship material drawn from God With Us: Worship resources on the theme of refugees, migration and sanctuary, published by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.
Prayers drawn from the Church of Scotland’s Weekly Worship resources.
Sending prayer from Celtic Daily Prayer, Northumbria Community 2005
You can find more information on the Scottish faith groups’ response to the refugee crisis at the website of Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees, www.sfar.org.uk/. This charity is hosted by the Church of Scotland.