World Refugee Day Homily

2018.06.20 MidWeek Communion Service Homily (World Refugee Day) at Oak Grove United Methodist Church

Scripture: Matthew 2:13-15
“When the magi had departed, an angel from the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon search for the child in order to kill him.” Joseph got up and, during the night, took the child and his mother to Egypt. He stayed there until Herod died.”

In this part of the birth narrative of Jesus, Matthew’s gospel is telling us the story of love coming into the world through Jesus–fully human, fully God. The obedient Magi have just left the scene, being warned in a dream to flee from the somewhat insecure, and certainly murderous, King Herod.

And so, we come into the story at the point where Joseph is also being warned in a dream to escape. They go to Egypt, fleeing for their lives.

We don’t get a lot of details about their experience getting to Egypt, nor how they were received in Egypt, but shortly after this scripture they do return and move to Nazareth in Galilee.

Today is international World Refugee Day. A day created by the United Nations General Assembly on December 4, 2000. The assembly noted that 2001 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. This 1951 convention determined who qualified as refugees, set out the rights of individuals to be granted asylum, and defined the agreed-upon the responsibilities of nations granting asylum.

The UN High Commission of Refugees says that a refugee is: “A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion,” and notes that refugees are typically unable to return home for those fears of persecution or unable to return home. (more info)

We see in the early text of Matthew’s Gospel narrative that Jesus, God incarnate, was forced to flee with his parents for fear of persecution and violence. Matthew’s portrayal of the birth narrative is mostly a story of God’s activity. The story is about the baby, infant Jesus, so Jesus here is not saving himself nor are these particularly really heroic  deeds from Mary or Joseph, but rather faithful action–just as any parent would do what they needed for their children. This minor digression in the birth narrative is only found in the Gospel of Matthew and is often an overlooked portion of scripture. It reminds us that we are called to pay attention to the minor digressions in stories and that even through unappreciated and seemingly less important people God might be trying to show us something.

Photo Jun 23, 11 16 53 AM.jpgImagine being someone in Egypt who met a baby/toddler version of Jesus brought in by two young parents, likely scared and yet hopeful. They went to Egypt with dreams for a better life for their child, the baby Jesus. And we don’t know that they found welcome in Egypt, but I like to imagine that some Egyptians saw them, had pity on them, recognized their gifts and abilities, and wanted to help them succeed.

World refugee day is about the celebration of not just the triumph of the human spirit, but also of the provision and welcome offered by host countries and community members.

How might we be called to pay attention to make room in our own lives for unexpected people or to create a space for others who are looking for a place of safety.

Sometime this week, whether tonight or later this week, perhaps re-read Matthew 2:13-15a and perhaps imagine yourself as an Egyptian seeing the holy family coming into town.

How do you feel drawn to help to encourage or to provide welcome?
How might God be using that to encourage us all to find a little more room?

Let it be so. Amen.

//

FYI: MidWeek Communion is a weekly Weds 5pm Worship service of prayers, a song, a Homily, and Holy Communion held in Grand Hall at Oak Grove UMC–feel free to drop by if you’re going to be out of town over the weekend or wanting to stop in & say “hi.” –JMcBray

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Pray and Act — Homily on the Persistent Widow

“Pray and Act” Homily by Rev. Joseph McBrayer at Emory University Worship at Cannon Chapel on Sunday October 16, 2016 with Emory Office of Spiritual and Religious Life. // My humble thanks to the many women who contributed to the content and direction of this sermon with your responses and online engagement.

Here is the audio of my sermon: “Pray and Act” on the Persistent Widow in Luke 18:1-8 from Emory Office of Spiritual and Religious Life‘s University Worship service today. (as a note, some of the stories I share contain references to sexual assault, harassment, and other incidents which some may find triggering or difficult to hear).

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving Thoughts 2015

“It all begins with a table–or a TV tray, or a lap–but either way, meals in our apartments or homes with other people or by ourselves are an occasion to remember and be thankful.

The practice of “saying grace” or “asking the blessing” or “giving thanks” for the food–whether it is a meager bowl of soup or a filled table of a thanksgiving feast–is to acknowledge that we and our bodies rely upon something outside of ourselves to sustain us. We give thanks for the people whom we don’t see or often acknowledge the people who plow, plant, and pick, the people who grow, harvest, and process, and the people who bring it to our markets, our doors, and our tables.

We also say thanks for the people who are around the table and remember those who have no table to gather round nor loved ones with whom to gather. We take a moment to PAUSE and acknowledge our need for the sustaining physical and spiritual nourishment which we receive from God our Creator–asking that God would bless our food that we might truly be a blessing to others.

So, when you gather with friends, family, and loved ones this Thanksgiving, remember–and be thankful.”

Happy Thanksgiving,
– Rev. Joseph McBrayer, the staff, & students of Emory Wesley

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Long Walk to Freedom: Jesus, Mandela, & Lent

Long Walk to Freedom: Jesus, Mandela, & Lent
 For MONDAY NIGHT WORSHIP at Emory Wesley (Methodist Campus Ministry at Emory) during LENT (40 Days from Ash Wednesday to Easter), we’re going to be focusing on Jesus’s walk towards Jerusalem where he will face persecution, trial, death, and, eventually, the Resurrection at Easter. SO, the Emory Wesley Worship Planning Team has decided to partner Jesus’s journey with Nelson Mandela’s journey towards freedom for ALL South African people, chronicled in his book “Long Walk to Freedom.” If you’re an Emory student,  feel free to join in Monday Nights 8pm at Cannon Chapel at Emory University.

Here’s the first homily in the series from Monday Night Worship at Cannon Chapel on 03.17.2014:

“Wilderness” // Long Walk to Freedom: Jesus, Mandela, and Lent week 1 from Emory Wesley on Vimeo.

Making➔ Space

Emory Wesley LogoWhen we offer hospitality to strangers, we welcome them into a place to which we are somehow connected–a space that has meaning and value to us.

Christine D. Pohl in Making Room: Recovering Hospitality
as a Christian Tradition

One of the most classic  and exhilarating college experiences is having a roommate. Sometimes this goes along smoothly, but other times it does not. However good or bad, there is something challenging and formative about sharing space with people who are different from you –it is experiences like this that help shape you into the person you will be when you finish college.

Two of the greatest challenges in life are finding space to belong to and making room for others. We all need a space to belong, a community to take part in, a group where we can be ourselves. People were created by God to be in community–to be in relationship–with God, with each other, and all of creation. It is perhaps easier to have our own space, but it is not as rich, not as diverse, or as beautiful as sharing our lives with others.

This is why it is vital that students have a place to come together in Christian community–a place where they can form and be formed into the people they are becoming in Jesus Christ. Jesus was all about making space. In the story wesley outlineof Levi, the tax collector, and Jesus in Mark chpt 2, we can see that Jesus made room in his community for tax collectors and sinners–those who society and religion of the day had excluded. Our job and calling is to make room for those society and even religion may exclude–those who are marginalized, labeled, and dis-connected.

Making room for others is difficult because it means we have to share the space that we have found. The students of the Emory Wesley Fellowship have found their space and are sharing it. They have defined themselves as “a community of disciples growing together in love of God and love of neighbor” and are seek to live it out. The Emory Wesley is a place where students come together as strangers and leave as part of a community having shared in a space that has meaning and value for their lives and their journey with God.

This past Sunday we had our first dinner and worship service and had a group of around 25 students. Our group is small, but a welcoming and growing group. We ate good food, shared in fellowship, song, prayer, and the Lord’s supper together. The student leadership of Emory Wesley is a talented, dynamic group of leaders and I am blessed to work with them. May God continue to bless and guide the Kingdom efforts made by the Emory Wesley Fellowship.

Grace and peace,loving god and neighbor

Joseph McBrayer
Emory Wesley Fellowship, Director
emorywesley.org