Called in for refuge; Called out to reshape the world
Rev. Dr. Donna Giver-Johnston
July 23, 2017
This summer we are studying the book of Psalms.
Today the Psalm is 16--a Psalm of Trust.
The First verse: “Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.”
A refuge is something that we all long for. A place to be sheltered and safe, free from danger or despair, a place to be comforted and cared for, a place to be at home.
Where do we find this refuge?
The middle verses tell us: The Lord is my chosen portion; you have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. I have a goodly inheritance.”
The Psalmist claims that the only true refuge is in God.
And even when we are in a place that does not feel secure, the Psalmist is confident and trusts that “ The Lord gives me counsel. The Lord is always before me, at my right hand. I shall not be moved.” God is a refuge of trust wherever we are.
The Last verse: You show me the path of life.
In other words, the psalmist cannot stay hidden in a place of refuge, but has to live life. And so, he trusts that God will lead him out and on the right path, to the place where there is joy and goodness for all.
In the July edition of Revelations, I described our church’s WHY like this:
We are all beloved children of God,
called in for refuge
and called out to reshape the world around us.
We are all beloved children of God,
All of us, whoever we are, wherever we have been on the journey of faith, whatever color, class, creed, gender or sexual orientation or political party we are, we are all created in God’s image, loved with a deep abiding love that will never let us go.
We are not alone. We are better together—more loving, more faithful, more hopeful, more peaceful, more prayerful, more missional, more giving, more joyful.
Called in for refuge
Jesus knows we all need a place of refuge, and so we come to church. We gather together to worship God and to share fellowship together, to offer our prayers and to remember the promises of our faith. We come to find strength for today and hope for tomorrow.
Called out to reshape the world around us.
Jesus calls us out—to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, care for the sick, visit the prisoner. He promises he will go with us, as we seek to change the world for good.
I can’t think about refuge without thinking of refugees: the people who, because of war in their countries, are refugees—without a place to be sheltered and safe, free from danger or despair, without a place to be comforted and cared for, without a home.
Children’s author Nicola Davies published a poem to draw attention to the 3,000 unaccompanied Syrian children to whom the United Kingdom government decided not to give a safe haven. As Rebecca and I traveled through England, we saw the refugee camp that had just been emptied. The United States has had a long history of welcoming the strangers, with the Statue of Liberty standing tall inviting: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Recently, however, we have not been a welcoming country, we have not been a refuge for those in need.
Nicola Davies’ poem challenges us and invites us to see the refugee with new eyes, through a child’s eye. Her poem is called “The Day the War Came.”
The day war came there were flowers on the window sill
and my father sang my baby brother back to sleep.
My mother made my breakfast, kissed my nose
and walked with me to school.
That morning I learned about volcanoes, I sang a song about how tadpoles turn at last to frogs.
I made a picture of myself with wings.
Then, just after lunch, while I watched a cloud shaped like a dolphin, war came.
At first, just like a spattering of hail
a voice of thunder…
then all smoke and fire and noise, that I didn’t understand.
It came across the playground.
It came into my teacher’s face.
It brought the roof down.
and turned my town to rubble.
I can’t say the words that tell you
about the blackened hole that had been my home.
All I can say is this:
war took everything
war took everyone
I was ragged, bloody, all alone.
I ran. Rode on the back of trucks, in buses;
walked over fields and roads and mountains,
in the cold and mud and rain;
on a boat that leaked and almost sank
and up a beach where babies lay face down in the sand.
I ran until I couldn’t run
until I reached a row of huts
and found a corner with a dirty blanket
and a door that rattled in the wind
But war had followed me.
It was underneath my skin,
behind my eyes,
and in my dreams.
It had taken possession of my heart.
I walked and walked to try and drive war out of myself,
to try and find a place it hadn’t reached.
But war was in the way that doors shut when I came down the street
It was in the way the people didn’t smile, and turned away.
I came to a school.
I looked in through the window.
They were learning all about volcanoes
And drawing birds and singing.
I went inside.
My footsteps echoed in the hall
I pushed the door and faces turned towards me
but the teacher didn’t smile.
She said, there is no room for you,
you see, there is no chair for you to sit on,
you have to go away.
And then I understood that war had got here too.
I turned around and went back to the hut, the corner and the blanket
and crawled inside.
It seemed that war had taken all the world and all the people in it.
The door banged.
I thought it was the wind.
But a child’s voice spoke
“I brought you this,” she said “so you can come to school.”
It was a chair. A chair for me to sit on and learn about volcanoes, frogs and singing
and drive the war out of my heart.
She smiled and said “My friends have brought theirs too, so all the children here can come to school”
Out of every hut a child came and we walked together,
on a road all lined with chairs.
Pushing back the war with every step.
WHY does our church exist? Because we are all beloved children of God, together, called in for refuge and called out to reshape the world around us.
Today, I am thrilled that we have some of our youth who have come into our church for refuge and have gone out on the path of life to reshape the world around them.
And they are here to share their experiences and inspirations with us. As is more often true than not: And a little child shall lead us. May it be so. Amen.