RESCUE FROM THE STORM
Image: Jim Forest on Flickr
I was looking recently at the story of the exodus of Israel through the Red Sea. As I read about the dire straights of refugees from Afghanistan, and others who are migrating for desperate reasons I realise that the flee from Egypt was not a measured walk of witness style event – but a loins-girded desperate push of terror as the fiercest armoured enemy pursued them with violence. The waters of the Red Sea parted for the Israelites in a way that they don’t do across the English Channel. But I still imagine the horror, the old and the young, the bleakness of the wilderness and the unwelcome of the local nations ahead. I think of the sickness that swept through Moses’ transit camp as well as the plagues that were experienced at home in Egypt.BUY THIS IS THAT
The chaos of Afghanistan is the kind of reality that is described in the bible as a storm and a raging sea. Sea monsters, huge waves, gales and tempests are ways of describing the earth and humanity when it is out of control, when evil and the forces of sin sweep over aggressors and victims alike, turmoiling them together in a vortex of hatred and fear. When the storm hit Jesus in the boat it was he was travelling to bring release to a whole region that was under the dirty oppression of the Roman invaders, and Jesus chose to focus on one person, Legion, who was terribly bound up.
Alongside the huge contributing factors of climate change due to unjust mismanagement of the earth’s resources, the migration of those who have to flee their homes because of violence is one of the world’s biggest problems. The storm wracked chaos of Afghanistan is too big to comprehend – the Western powers, the Taliban, Isis, the long history of the region treated as a Great Game. The Exodus story is too big to comprehend – but our familiarity with it can package it in such a way that it does not speak to us any more. Nevertheless, it is a story of God seeing the chaos and its impact on individuals and families; and finding a few people who will share his heart in such a way to do something about it. This is the gospel. It is RNLI boats. It is foster families. It is those who, like Moses, turn back to use their role and influence to bring confrontational redemption rather than political expediency.
I have been freshly aware of the groups in the UK that have emerged with an emphasis on safe welcome and hospitality. Places of Welcome. City of Sanctuary. Welcome Churches. Renew Wellbeing. These are shelters from the storm. They are Christ in the boat and Christ with Legion among the graves. They are the snake held up on the pole in the desert. The blood on the doorposts of the Israelites homes.
I feel the call of God, like many do, to play my part in such a welcome. To give, to pray, to mobilise in such a way that there are increasing places and people that become like tabernacles in the desert. And I know too that here in the UK the immediate pressure on our healthcare systems this month is such that there is also a storm for the unwell and the careworkers – all of whom need safe harbour and the strategies of Moses and Jesus to navigate the waters in order to get there.
Psalm 55 describes the feelings of those in the storm:
4 My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me.
5 Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.
6 I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.
7 I would flee far away and stay in the desert;
8 I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm. ”
9 Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words, for I see violence and strife in the city.
10 Day and night they prowl about on its walls; malice and abuse are within it.
11 Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave its streets.
And it ends very simply with:
23 But as for me, I trust in you.
I pray that my trust in God would lead me to hearing his call to think, speak and act in such a way that I join him in building shelter from the storm and welcome safety from the the oppressor.
Martin J Young