Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sermon for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

The Good Samaritan
Aime Morot

 “And who is my neighbour?” 

Over the last couple of weeks we have heard about discipleship,
about what it means to be a follower of Christ.
We heard how we need to keep our hands to the plough and persevere.  
We have heard how we need to proclaim the Kingdom, and heal the sick.
Today we hear about who it is that we are to go and be with, and far we are to go.

Love your neighbour as yourself.

We say this every Sunday.
Actually we confess that we haven’t loved our neighbour as ourselves.
It is a confronting moment.
We admit that we haven’t done as we are expected.
A moment when we admit we have let ourselves and God down a bit.

We have not loved our neighbour as ourselves.

The lawyer asks Jesus “Who is my neighbour?”

This leads Jesus into the parable of the Good Samaritan.
We know this story so well.
But time has softened this story.
We need to understand the explosive nature of Jesus using a Samaritan as the one who gets it right.
The words good and Samaritan just didn't go together

We should rename it in our time as “The Good Terrorist,” or “The Good Drug Dealer” or “The Good Lawnmower Thief.” That was the status of the Samaritans in Jesus time. They were pretty low in Jewish society.

Jesus is a master story teller.
He sets up the story so we expect something.

The priest avoids the man left for dead, as does the Levite.
The audience at this time would expect this.
These two can’t be near a dead person, as it means they would not be able to carry out their religious duties.
At this point the audience will be expecting that it will be an Israelite, someone like themselves who will be the hero, the one who does the rescuing.
A common man, instead of a cleric.

But Jesus takes it further.
It is the lowest of the low that gets it right.
And not just that, they go beyond.
It is the person that no one wants to be near that goes near to the one in peril.

At this we point we can think of the man who has been beaten.
It is likely he is an Israelite, and the one who is helping him is his enemy.
He would not have spoken to a Samaritan.
He would leave a place if a Samaritan turned up.
Yet here he is in a state of near death, and it is this enemy who is caring for him.
What will this Israelite think of Samaritans now?
Can they continue to be a people who he despises?

And likewise the Samaritan. This enmity went both ways, yet here the Samaritan helps the Israelite, an enemy.

Jesus asks the lawyer: “Which of these three, do you think,
was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 

By making the hero a person from the lowest strata of society,
Jesus expands the meaning of neighbour.
Our neighbour is anyone.
It is those who we may not want to associate with.
It is those who are not like us.
It is those who we don’t agree with.
It is those who anger, frustrate, repulse, infuriate, or even repel us.
All are our neighbour.

We have not loved our neighbour as ourselves.

This affects the way we live our lives everyday.

It affects the way we view everyone.
No longer can we say ‘I don’t need to worry about that person.’
No longer can we say ‘I can’t work with that person.’
No longer can we say ‘they are my enemy.’
They are our neighbour. They, meaning a group that is outside or other, can no longer exist. They are our neighbour. They are us. We.

We all have our blind spots.
We all have prejudices that hinder our loving of some people.
I know a few of my own, and I am ashamed at the way I think of people from certain institutions.
You see the thing is, it is easy to worry about the poor and sick.
It is easy to think they are our neighbour, because we can see a need and our desire as Christians is to help and heal.
But it is the people we see as being opposed to us that are more difficult, like the Samaritans for the Israelites.

Jesus said “Go and do likewise.”

Go love your neighbour as yourself.
As the Samaritan loved the beaten man. 
Go and do likewise.

We can’t discriminate  about who we love.
It isn't a matter of having a hierarchy of people we love.
It is a matter of loving all,
no matter their religion, race, class, nationality, what football team they support, or even their core values.

We are called to love our neighbour as ourselves,
and Jesus tells us our neighbour is everyone.

As God’s love is for everyone, so our love must be for everyone.

And this answers the Lawyer’s first question:
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

To inherit eternal life, we must love our neighbour as ourselves,
and our understanding of who our neighbour is must be expanded to include all humanity.

As the Samaritan loved the wounded man, God loves wounded humanity.
We are to do the same. We are to love all we meet, the same as God loves everyone.

Who is my neighbour?
Those who you like being with, those you don’t even want to know.

Jesus tells us “Now go and do likewise.”

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