Refection by Revd Dr Frank Hegedűs, Chaplain at St Margaret's in Budapest

A contribution from Revd Dr Frank Hegedűs, Chaplain at St Margaret's in Budapest

"In some ways, it seems like only yesterday to me that refugees from conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, and other war-ravaged countries of the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia converged upon Budapest, where I live, filling our streets and train stations, seeking sanctuary and a new life far from conflict and constant fear. Yet what happened nearly seven years ago is with us now again, as people in neighbouring lands have been forced from their homes, compelled to set out on perilous journeys in search of refuge from war, in search of solace along their journey as they leave behind them their homes and all that home means.

Home…  In many cultures, if not most, home is easy enough to define.  Home is where you are born; and home is where you die.  It is a large part of who you are. The span between birth and death is spent in familiar village or city neighbourhood; raising a family, plying a trade or profession, celebrating the important events of life.    Home is where one belongs and where, when one is away, one longs to be.  Home is fixed and permanent.  

Except of course when, suddenly, it is not; when it is wrested from us by forces not in our control; forces sometimes of nature, but all too often of human willfulness,  greed, and rampant nationalism, as we see playing out today in Ukraine.  The plight of refugees and those forced to flee their homes and homeland is sadly nothing new in human history.  Scripture itself is filled with such stories and tales.  And the ancestors of each and every one of us participating in this service this evening were likely at some point in the recent or distant past migrants and refugees, people forced from their homes by poverty or war.  It is certainly true in my family history.

“I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans,” the Lord tells Abram in a well-known passage from the Book of Genesis, a passage read just a couple weeks ago on the Second Sunday in Lent.  “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.”   A land to be in other words your new home.  Yet the journey from home in Ur of the Chaldeans to home in the Promised Land was surely, in spite of the Lord’s promise and Covenant, filled with peril and uncertainty as is very nearly every journey far from home.

As all four of the Gospels attest, our Lord himself makes his way from his home in Nazareth, where he was rejected by his own neighbours and townspeople, to the Holy City Jerusalem.  Along the way, he and his disciples face further rejection among the peoples of Samaria before moving on “to another village.”  And in Jerusalem itself, the dwelling place of God among his people as the ancient Israelites believed, our Lord finds further rejection and ultimately death.  Jesus becomes in a sense a refugee among his very own people.  For our Lord, the journey home is in a sense home itself.  As he himself says, “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”  Yet it is in a sense as rejected and homeless refugee that he soon enough becomes long-awaited redeemer.  

Lent is our annual reminder of this reality; that we are all on the journey with Christ to Calvary.   

And the ultimate homeland promised to those who journey with our Lord along the way of the Cross does not consist of square kilometres but rather of the geography of God’s kingdom among us.   And so we pray this evening for those uprooted by war from their homes and spiritual roots.  May they find welcome and support along their journey, be it ultimately back home to places now alas forever changed by the scars of war; or be it to new lands and new neighbours and friends; to a new home.  

We pray as well for those who take in those dispossessed by war and invasion and do their best to make them feel at home among them, be it for hours or days; be it for much longer.  And we pray for a change of heart and for repentance among those who, forgetting the value of welcome and acceptance, of home, would cruelly uproot others from their homes.

“Do not be afraid,” is one of the most common expressions or charges in all of Scripture, occurring according to scholars well over two hundred times in various forms in both Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.   And the very first time it occurs is in the story of Abram, our father in faith, as God appears to him in a vision and reassures him with these very words, “Do not be afraid, Abram; I am your shield.”  Welcome words of reassurance for anyone who trusts in God’s promises.  Welcome words of reassurance for us today.  For, our faith always calls us away from places of comfort and the familiar; calls us from home “to another village,” even if we never leave home.  Yet we, like Abram, need not fear.  For, the Lord is still our shield.


Watch the video here