Welcome to St Augustine’s this morning! Its now the right side of mid-winter’s day and we can look forward to Spring. Having moved here after the English winter we are looking forward to some sunshine!

Welcoming is so important as Christians – Jesus tells us in Matthew 25: 34-36 how we should welcome people – the hungry, the homeless and the stranger.  This is a week when we’ve seen horrendous pictures of how children are treated in the USA, separated from parents. No longer will they have the protection of their parents, supporting and loving them, teaching them how to live. How right can it be to treat people so badly?  That passage is clear on our responsibilities, and its worth looking at the response of those around Jesus at the time.

The reading today is read by many Christian communities today. Galatians 3 talks about the before and after of faith in Jesus Christ. It speaks of how as children we are cared for and nurtured. And how with Jesus Christ we become new people – we are transformed. The passage tells us that we are invited to be ‘one in Christ’ (v28).  It says there is no difference – whoever we are – all are welcome.

On the Refugee crisis Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks says this;   I used to think that the most important line in the Bible was “Love your neighbour as yourself”. Then I realised that it is easy to love your neighbour because he or she is usually quite like yourself. What is hard is to love the stranger, one whose colour, culture or creed is different from yours. That is why the command, “Love the stranger because you were once strangers”, resonates so often throughout the Bible. It is summoning us now. A bold act of collective generosity will show that the world, particularly Europe, has learned the lesson of its own dark past and is willing to take a global lead in building a more hopeful future. Wars that cannot be won by weapons can sometimes be won by the sheer power of acts of humanitarian generosity to inspire the young to choose the way of peace instead of holy war.’

We are called here in St Augustine’s to live lives that follow Jesus’s example and teaching. Let us today welcome the stranger, love our neighbour and work together for peace.

One reminder this next Tuesday at 7pm we have our Mission Shaped Intro course, looking at Discipleship and Leadership. All are welcome.

Meanwhile blessings and shalom 

Matthew and Claire