Homily – Sunday, the 19th June 2022 – World Refugee Day
Our OT and NT passages are two of many examples of Refugees in
the Bible. You won’t find the Word “refugee” in the Bible. But the
Bible says much about people called “strangers” and “sojourners”
or “foreigners” in our translations.
Today’s theme is one that should be important to each of us. It is
not a new topic and has been happening since Adam and Eve fled
the Garden of Eden. Throughout history masses of people have
had to flee from famine, poverty, war, persecution, earthquakes,
floods, hurricanes and the rest of the long list of catastrophes.
It is believed that the origin of man began in Africa and since then
mankind has spread across the entire globe. What caused these
masses to move.
Somewhere in each of our family trees there is a refugee. One of
my mother’s forefathers arrived in what is today the USA on the
Mayflower. Her maiden’s name was Fuller who was one of the
signers of the Mayflower Compact. Many of the passengers on the
Mayflower were fleeing religious persecution in England including
my great,great, great, great uncle.
As many of you I was not born in Germany. How many sitting here
were not born in Germany?
Each of us has come to Germany for a variety of reasons. I came
after my studies for a two-year internship and never left. How
Our OT and NT texts give us two major reasons for reasons to
leave your home country. Jacob and his family fled to Egypt
because there was famine. The only nation that had grain to share
In the OT we also learn that Assyria invaded Israel and displaced
its citizens to Assyria. This is also an aggressive tactic used in
modern wars. Russia is currently forcing many Ukrainians to be
displaced to Russia.
Religious beliefs have caused many wars in OT times and today
there are millions of refugees because of different beliefs. Not only
do we have Shiites and Sunnis causing civil wars in Islam
countries, we have Buddhist and Christian nationalism that have
created many refugees. Members of marginal groups are also
persecuted and fleeing Christian lands where there is limited
Jesus the Refugee
Our Gospel today describes the second time Jesus left his home.
We often forget that before Jesus was born in a manger in
Bethlehem, he was a citizen of heaven.
Who lives in very nature God, did not consider equality of God
something to be used to his own advantage. Rather, he made
himself nothing. By taking the very nature of a servant being made
in human likeness.
Jesus had a home in heaven, but he left it to come to us. He was
an immigrant from heaven who came to earth to identify with us by
becoming one of us. No longer did he sit on a throne in heaven. He
lived a simple life with a carpenter as a father and as a small child
he was a refugee in Egypt. He knew from his early years that he
spoke a different language, had a different religion and had
different customs than his Egyptian neighbors.
This is similar to what many refugees experience today. There are
so many highly credentialed academics who lived in big houses
with servants who are working in a fast-food restaurant somewhere
in the west.
Also when Jesus retuned to Judea and was traveling across his
birth land he needed refuge. Often in Christ’s life he was
threatened and fled from violence. Examples of this are found in
Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I
am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid
himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the
works, that you may know and understand that the Father
is in me, and I in the Father.” Again they tried to seize him, but he
escaped their grasp.
Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year,
spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is
better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole
He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he
prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not
only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to
bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they
plotted to take his life.
Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people
of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a
village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.
One common emotion to all those who flee is fear. Jesus himself
knew this fear because when he left heaven and became as us, he
became vulnerable. Jesus felt the same fear that his parents felt
when they fled from Herod to Egypt. He knew what it meant to fear
for his life.
In the Gospels Jesus does not have a home to which he returned
to after a hard day of work. He was basically homeless. This is also
a feeling that he shared with millions today who have no idea
where they will lay their head tonight.
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son
of Man has no place to lay his head.“
We are all Refugees
When Jesus came to earth, he brought the Kingdom of God with
him. This Kingdom is different than all of the previous and future
kingdoms on this planet we all live on. The religious leaders were
disappointed with Christ’s kingdom and message. They were
waiting for a conquering king but Jesus preached justice and
Peace. He also hung around with sinners and the people living on
the margins of society.
As we read in today in Psalm 46, God is our refuge. Jesus is our
access point to this refuge which is found in his kingdom.
Jesus opened his kingdom to all including the outcasts and
refugees. Mankind was kicked out of Paradise in the Garden of
Eden but the Kingdom of God is a land we all can flee to. No
matter what we are fleeing from there is refuge for each of us.
As citizens of the kingdom of God we are challenged to treat others
as Christ treats us. There are so many examples in Christ’s
teachings of how to treat others and we should all do our best to
In Matthew 25 is one of my favorite teachings on the kingdom of
God with a list of what inhabitants of the kingdom do.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are
blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared
for you since the creation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty
and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you
invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and
you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you
hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing
clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and
go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the
least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
This is how we who are part of the kingdom of God should treat
In today’s Gospel story Jesus, Mary and Joseph are not the only
main characters. The villain in this story is easy to hate and to put
him in the list of the 10 worse people that ever walked this earth. I
am sure that none of us would like to be compared to Herod.
Herod probably did not start out as he appears in the today’s
passage. He came into the world privileged but also as an innocent
baby. He wasn’t born a tyrant.
Like all of us our hearts often change when other people interfere
with our comfort. Herod feared that the new born messiah would
cost him his job and all the benefits that came with it. 83 precent
of the world’s refugees live in low- and middle-income countries.
They live in camps with limited food, health care and what for me
inexcusable, no schools. Whole generations of refugees are not
being educated. Only a few make it to a western country.
Unfortunately, we spend little time talking about that 83 precent.
Refugees become front page news when they make it to First
This is when our refugees enter our comfort zones. Unfortunately,
this is when we begin talking about refugees. It is easy to be
adamantly for the rights of Refugees when our life’s are net
effected. Refugees are loved until they become our neighbor, make
the lines longer at the unemployment office, add to the shortage of
housing or take away kindergarten places.
The Herod problem can begin at the bank where you are waiting in
a long line at the while the teller is trying to explain to a foreigner
how to transfer money to their relatives. This road begins with bad
thoughts. The temptation for these thoughts gets bigger by every
minute you wait. My advice is to pray and bless the teller and the
client. For me it is difficult to stay mad with someone when I pray
The second step on the road is when these thoughts become
words. Maybe you are sitting with friends in a café and you
complain about what you experienced at the bank. Your comfort
zone was invaded and it bothered you. I think it is safe to say many
of us have reached step 2, I have.
The third step could be speaking to a refugee when one enters
your comfort zone when your food order is delayed because they
didn’t understand your order. You might comment, “if you want to
stay, learn the language” (a comment I have repeatedly heard) This
step 3 is called Action.
The last step is that your attitude changes from love and
acceptance to being annoyed. Refugees have officially become a
Yes, I know this all sounds over dramatic. I really don’t think any of
you are going to become a tyrant or have the potential to ordering
the slaughter of babies. I just want to make us all aware that if we
are involved with refugees our comfort zones will be invaded. To
tell the truth it is a good thing when we are stretched out of our
comfort zones. I have had the privilege of living with many foreign
students from every continent except Australia and I have been
stretched. There have been misunderstandings but all in all the
experience has been transformative and I have been blessed.
Currently I have a young man from Gambia and my first German
I hope this week each of us will come out of the danger of our
comfort zones and reach out to things that are strange to us and
maybe even to someone who is „foreign“ to you. I promise you will