When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, ‘Joseph’s brothers have come’, Pharaoh and his servants were pleased. Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Say to your brothers, “Do this: load your animals and go back to the land of Canaan. Take your father and your households and come to me, so that I may give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you may enjoy the fat of the land.” You are further charged to say, “Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Give no thought to your possessions, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.”’
High above Swaledale sits the ruins of a chapel once used as a hunting lodge but given by Lord Wharton (of Bible gifts fame) as a chapel for the Dissenters in the Dale. Their successors have come down now to the village of Low Row and, along with the other Christians in the Dale, have formed links with refugees in Middlesborough. Not just giving ‘stuff’ but inviting the refugees to events in the Dale where stories are told of each others’ lives. The Embroidery Guild and Middlesborough guests had a wonderful day together sharing their mutual interest, while the children had a marvellous ‘outdoor pursuits’ experience provided by Marrick Priory.
The market town of Northallerton have received, like many communities throughout the UK, Syrian refugees through the Refugee Council scheme. The churches in the town have again been active in welcoming the families and helping them ‘make a house a home’.
Pharaoh’s generous welcome and offer of hospitality reminds us that Christians are not the only people who can offer a place of refuge and hope to those fleeing their own land for whatever reason- natural disaster, or human-made. Whilst we know the end of the story under another Pharaoh, let us stop for a moment and remind ourselves that this Pharaoh did offer sanctuary to Joseph’s far extended family, but he went beyond just a welcome, he gave the best land and wagons to bring the vulnerable to this haven.
May we be touched too with this spirit of lavish hospitality – going beyond the immediate needs of refugees and asylum seekers in our communities – and, like the people of the dales open up opportunities for learning from each other in mutual respect.
Gracious God, We thank you that you are a God of generosity and, indeed, lavishness. We are sorry when we hoard things for ourselves and fail to extend those gifts to others.
We ask your forgiveness.
We ask that today, as we ponder the generosity of a long-dead Pharaoh, we may be open-hearted and open-handed with those we encounter today.
For the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen
The Rev’d Hilary Collinson a Minister in the Tees and Swale Pastorate