A Prayer for the Stranger (On Fear, Love and the Island of Lesbos)

lesbos-kos_3432066bThis morning, as we come before the cross – as we come to once again consider the bread and the wine, the body, the blood – we come with the awareness that a chaotic, surging wave of people is breaking across the shores of Europe. We come with the understanding that every day 5000 more refugees from places like Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan wash up on the broken and battered beaches of Greece. We come in awe before the face of a migratory movement that is larger than any that we have seen since the dawn of the Second World War. And we come with questions, with prejudices, with fear.

Holy YHWH, you have said to us, “Be not afraid, for I am with you! Be not frightened, for I am your God!”[1]

But we are afraid, for we have seen planes crash into buildings, reigning chaos and destruction on our cathedrals of greed, our fortresses of power and our halls of unchecked arrogance. We have watched as our sons and daughters, our friends and our loved ones jumped from the sky less they burn slowly and without mercy. And in our doubt and faithlessness, we wondered … were You watching that day?

King Jesus, you have said to us, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”[2]

O, but we are anxious! We are deeply, profoundly anxious. We are afraid that our world is changing too fast and in ways that we cannot understand. We see what is happening in far away places with names we can barely spell, and our fear reminds us that there are precious things that can be lost. Our fear reminds us that our love is fragile and ever exposed to death.

Precious Comforter, Counselor and Advocate, the Great Apostle has told us that we have been given “a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.”[3]

Because You are Truth, O God, we know these words to be True. But we have seen what we have seen; and we do not see as You see. You say that we have power, but we feel powerless before the advance of the stranger. You say that we have been given love, but we know our hearts and we know that love does not come easily to us.

Holy Triune Creator, remind us again this morning that this is Your creation to do with as you please. Remind us that we are servants first, sent forth into the world to be the heralds of your great Gospel, to be the ambassadors of your great offering of peace.

Take our fear and our prejudice from us. Take our need to control our little kingdoms and forge us into a people that take comfort in Your Kingdom and Your mighty hand. Remind us again of the great truth found in the hated Samaritan, who saw the image of God in the broken man, when the people of God could see nothing. Remind us again of the call to carry the pack of the brutal Roman – the pack of an oppressor bent upon exerting his will over the humiliated people of God.

Sweet Messiah, you have taught us that “perfect love casts out all fear.”[4]

Help us to become a people that love the alien, the stranger, the immigrant, the refugee, and even the enemy. Help us to become a people who walk unafraid.

It is in your singular name that we pray. Amen.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

[1] Isaiah 41:10

[2] Luke 12:22.

[3] 2 Timothy 1:7.

[4] 1 John 4:18.

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