Two children aged four and sixty-one
sit on the shiny church hall floor wazzing
a plastic tractor across the busy span
ploughing laughter. In the background
newly arrived friends discover an arsenal
of language whilst a bill is broadcast
that will make entertained angels illegal
amongst strangers with forgotten roots.
Is this what we have become? Keepers
of the poisoned well, creators of bitter
metaphor, crafters of ripped canvas?
Who will serenade aliens, play tractors
on the floor, dig the well of flourishing,
and plant flowers amongst muck-rakers?
Craig Muir, Lent 2023
I usually like poems to stand by themselves, and perhaps this one can do so – but I thought it could also stand some context and some biblical background. The first day of our new Learning Together initiative in Loughborough was the same day as the publication of a government bill that seeks to make such activity impossible. I find such an attitude towards those seeking asylum stands against the values of any nation that would like to think of itself as Christian. Time and time again the Biblical texts remind the people of Israel where they have come from, that because they had been slaves they were to treat strangers/aliens with kindness and respect (e.g. Deuteronomy 13). In this poem we draw from the Letter to the Hebrews “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”(13:2).
Time and again the people of God are called to pursue peace and create a culture of welcome. In this poem I remember various stories in which the well is the place of meeting, but in particular Genesis 26 where access to wells was a cause for conflict but became the basis for peace and hospitality. As we find ways to welcome those who seek asylum amongst us, may we also find ways to create beauty, love and peace together – it is the only way we can all flourish and in doing so I believe it is the only way to follow the one who reminds us that once we were in chains but now we are free.
As we move into the season of Easter, may we each know the joy of new life, the hope of resurrection and the excitement of being welcomed into the enriching community of God’s people.