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Artwork depicting three refugees on the moveFor the Healing of the Nations
A Worship Service for World Refugee Day

International World Refugee Day is June 20. This is a time when churches can educate their members about the plight of refugees around the world and the work of the United Methodist Committee on Relief with displaced peoples. UMCOR's Refugee Ministries unit encourages churches to set aside a Sunday at the end of June for a special refugee worship service. A bulletin insert is also available. It includes two vignettes about refugees and some statistics that could be used in this worship service.

These resources have been compiled by the refugee unit of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), General Board of Global Ministries. Select and adapt those materials that are best for your needs. Don't miss Jesu tawa pano ("Jesus, we are here"), a hymn from Zimbabwe in Shona, German and English (words and music).


Call to Worship

Animated Notes

Play the hymn, "For the Healing of the Nations"

L: We are a community of faith that has been created by the love of God.

P: We are the people who have been set free by the world of forgiveness in Jesus Christ, and are therefore a people called to reach out to the sojourners in our midst and in other lands, people whose lives cry out for the warm embrace of fellowship.

L: We have come not to exalt our own goodness, but to praise the holiness of God.

P: We have come not to boast of what we have done, but to proclaim the redeeming work of Jesus Christ by extending the hand of community to refugees, displaced persons and asylum seekers.

All: With all our being, we will praise God and tell of God's goodness in our acts of kindness and love toward the "least" among us in our times.

OR

I will turn all my mountains into a road, and my highways shall be raised up.

Lo, these shall come from far away, and lo, these from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Syrene.

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing!

For the Lord has comforted his people. (Isaiah: 49:11-13)

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Call to Confession

Keeper of heaven and earth, guardian of our coming and going forth, of our times of tender reflection, and our moments of turmoil, our life is fragile. We violate each other in personal relationships, as nations, as inept keepers of life's beauty. Sharpen our sensitivities. Stir in us preference for listening over speaking, for tenderness over aggression, for solidarity and community over alienation. Deepen for us the meaning of the resurrection, that we not only speak words of transformation but embody those words in our lives. Healer, Redeemer, Sustainer, Source of Hope and Joy, we offer thanks and praise. Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

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Hymns

The following hymns are found in the United Methodist Hymnal

#105 God of Many Names
#432 Jesu, Jesu
#434 Cuando El Pobre (When the Poor Ones)
#428 For the Healing of the Nations
#560 Help Us Accept Each Other

Jesu tawa Pano (Jesus we are here), #36 in Global Praise I (GBGM, 1997). It can be sung as a musical response to the lesson readings. It can be sung two or three times in rounds, replacing Jesu and Jesus, with Savior, Master, Spirit, or with some people singing in English and others in the language of Zimbabwe provided phonetically.

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Prayers

1.

From The United Methodist Hymnal, #639: "Bread and Justice"by Ruben Alves, Brazil, 20th century, I Believe in the Resurrection of the Body, trans. 1986 Fortress Press.

2.

For the Courage to Do Justice

O Lord,
open our eyes that we may see the needs of refugees;
open our ears that we may hear people's cries for justice;
open our hearts that we may assist sojourners near and far.

Show us
where love, hope and faith are needed.

Use us as ministers of your healing.

Let us not be afraid
to protect the weak because of the anger of the strong,
or to defend the poor because of the power of the rich.

Sustain us so that in these coming days
we may be able to do some work of peace for you.

We ask these things in your blessed name. You taught us to pray....

3.

Look with pity, O heavenly God,
upon those in this land who live with
injustice, terror, and death of family and friends.
Have mercy upon us and help us
to eliminate cruelty wherever it is found.
Strengthen those who seek equality for all.
Grant that every one of us may enjoy
a fair portion of the justice of this land. Amen.

(From materials for Year of the Uprooted, Interchurch Committee on Refugees, Canada)

4.

God, who can turn our worries into wings of joy and our sorrows into songs of thanks, let not our hearts be so troubled by the tragedies of this life's moment that we lose sight of the eternal life in Your Kingdom. Give comfort and solace to our brothers and sisters who suffer almost unbearable losses every second, minute and hour around the world. Strengthen our resolve to replace hatred with love, tension with trust, fear with understanding, and selfishness with caring and community. Heal, O God, all your people so that those who are hurt, may live in a world of peace, opportunity, and justice. Amen.

Adapted from Guide My Feet by Marian Wright Edelman

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Litanies

1.

L: Today as we gather together, we seek to accompany those 13 million refugees, and 21.8 million people displaced within their own countries, forced to leave their homes due to war, hunger, or other forms of persecution. In these people Jesus Christ himself is present, and their very presence poses an urgent and ongoing question to us regarding how we live out our faith.

P: We pray for the ability to understand and the openness to listen to the voices of refugees.

L: Imagine for a moment that you are being forced to leave your home. You are leaving on foot, so you can take little with you. You don't know if you will ever be able to return to your community.

P: God keeps faith forever, gives justice to the oppressed; God sets prisoners free and protects the stranger. (Psalm 146)

L: In many countries, including our own, minority groups are discriminated against. They may be of a different color, speak a different language, practice a different religion, or simply be women. Many are forced to flee from different countries because of open persecution.

P: We are people on a journey; show us your commands. (Psalm 119)

L: We thank God for the diversity of peoples and cultures in the world, and we ask that we may be able to see promise, richness and opportunity in these differences, rather than threat and fear.

P: We pray that we may listen to others with respect, even when they look different from us, speak other languages or have different beliefs. Keep us open Lord to learn from one another.

L: Saving Lord, forgive us for the times that we have not been willing to share your saving compassion with those who seek our help. Help us to learn from other poorer countries, whose borders are always open, and whose people are ready to welcome the stranger.

P: We are people on a journey; show us your commands.

L: O Lord, we ask for the gift of discernment. Help us so that we may begin to recognize you in the stranger.

P: We are people on a journey; show us your commands. Amen.

From a Liturgy prepared by Geoff Dornan National Council of Churches of Australia Refugee and Migrant Services

2.

L: For refugees and other displaced persons who have been forced from homes and security, we pray to the Lord.

P: Lord, hear our prayer.

L: For the people and the land from which refugees have fled, we pray to the Lord.

P: Lord, hear our prayer.

L: For the humane and constitutional treatment of refugees in our nation, we pray to the Lord.

P: Lord, hear our prayer.

L: For perception to see Christ in the strangers we welcome, we pray to the Lord.

P: Lord, hear our prayer.

3.

L: Lord Jesus, who fled the wrath of Herod.

P: Be with those who have to flee the injustice of others.

L: Lord Jesus, who had nowhere to lay your head.

P: Be with those who have no land to call their own.

L: For the refugees from Myanmar, Iraq and Afghanistan.

P: Lord, hear our prayer.

L: For people uprooted in Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Liberia.

P: Lord, hear our prayer.

L: For refugees and displaced persons who have fled from or are still living in Bosnia and Kosovo.

P: Lord, hear our prayer.

L: For all refugees who have fled oppression in their own countries and are seeking new lives in new lands.

P: Lord, hear our prayer.

All: Help us, Lord, who are the privileged inn-keepers of our day, to find room for those who have been driven from their homelands because of political, racial, or religious reasons. Amen.

(Adapted from World Council of Churches Worship Resources, Focus on Refugee, 1981)

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Scripture Readings

Hebrew Scriptures:
Exodus 22: 17 - 21 ( Resident aliens in the Covenant Code)
Leviticus 19: 33- 34 (Resident aliens as part of the Holiness Code)
Deuteronomy 24: 17 - 22 (Resident aliens as part of the Justice Code

New Testament:
Matthew 25:35-40 (Consideration for the "least" among us)
Luke: 10:25-37 (The Good Samaritan)
Luke 24:13- 35 (the Stranger on the Road to Emmaus)


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Sermon Topics and Notes

1.

Risking to be with Uprooted People: Our Relationship with Strangers in Our Midst.

The above theme can be explored in the light of one or more of the first five texts listed under Scripture Readings above. The theme seeks to challenge us to view our responses to uprooted peoples in the light of Jesus' call for engagement with those who are the "least" among us, particularly those who are the victims of oppression and injustice, violence and persecution. As disciples of Christ, we are called not be indifferent. We are not allowed to be bystanders, nor are we permitted to exempt ourselves from responsibility, merely because we have not been a direct cause for the misfortunes of others.

Both the witness of the Patriarchs and prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures and that of Jesus in the New Testament speak to the way in which God calls us "to walk away from the crowd, one-by-one, "precisely in order to preserve our dual relationship to God and neighbor. The God of Israel and the God of whom Jesus spoke calls us to resist the insidious comforts of our own cultures and personal groupings which can blind us to the injustices committed against those whom we, wrongfully or mistakenly, do not number among our own.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the people of Israel were not permitted unanimity in their response to the presence of the alien, the widow and the orphan, or of the poor. In the New Testament, Jesus numbered the sick and the deranged, the tax collector and the adulterer, those socially outcast, as the "least" among us who also warrant concern and consideration within our communities. Paradoxically and mysteriously, our God calls us to find our salvation and fulfillment as human beings exactly at the point at which we would disengage or disassociate ourselves from "others". It is in his resurrection that we understand what Jesus has done for us in his experience on the cross. He reached out in forgiveness to each of us at the moment of his brutal execution, the moment when we all stood by among the crowd. He offers us wholeness in the midst of the reality of our brokenness.

Today, we meet the face of God-in Christ in the guise of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons, and are asked, like the lawyer to whom Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan to "go and do likewise."

2.

Luke 24: 13 - 35 Recognizing the Stranger

The sermon could begin with the words of some people in your own congregation who have lived the refugee experience. If that is not an option, direct reference may be made to the reading from Luke.

In this worship service on uprooted peoples, we are seeking to discern our Lord in this current day and age in the journey of the refugee. The reading of the Emmaus walk is appropriated as an image whereby we too have the scales taken from our eyes, where we too begin to recognize Christ in a new way, --in the form of the stranger, the refugee, the asylum seeker.

With this in mind, two points can be made:
The first is that early on in the reading, verse 16, the disciples did not recognize Jesus as he joined them. Presumably, there was a spiritual blindness, whereby they failed to discern him for who he was. Have we and do we continue to suffer from such blindness in the light of the low profile the refugee enjoys on our national agenda?
The second point refers to verse 32. Having received the scriptures and experienced the broken bread, their eyes are opened to the risen Christ. This verse mentions their memory of the event that had taken place. They speak of their "hearts burning", something which has been translated as "strangely warmed", an allusion to conversion. Without doubt, the call to discern our Lord in the journey of the refugee is a call to conversion, a call to seize the opportunity of informing ourselves about and ministering to the refugee of our age.

(From National Council of Churches in Australia Refugee and Migrant Services, Liturgy, prepared by Geoff Dorman) This selection has been drawn from materials written by Nancy Lanman for UMCOR, and from sources as credited.

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Thanks to HymnSite.com for providing the public domain midi file "For the Healing of the Nations" from the United Methodist Hymnal. The words are copyrighted and not provided on that web site or GBGM's.

UMCOR Refugee/Immigration Resources
Worship Resources - Refugees Resettlement Packet - Feature Stories.