Sermon: 4th Sunday after Trinity 2019
The Good Samaritan and fixed views then and today
Readings: Deuteronomy 30:9-14; Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10: 25-37.
Preached at 0800 Communion service on Sunday 14 July 2019
Paul Ramsey, Reader
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
In the lessons we have heard this morning, like so many parts of the Bible, do you find there are echoes of them even in our lives today? By delving deeper we can come to a greater understanding of our faith in today’s world, whether globally, or in Europe and our country, or in Nantwich itself.
Deuteronomy, that second restating of the law, quite clearly records that God will delight in us if we obey him and keep his commands and decrees. To love him with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength is, down the ages and emphasised by Jesus, part of the first commandment we heard and responded to earlier in the service. And the inference is that if we obey the law, through God’s grace, we are on the highway to life, eternal life.
In his letter to the people at Colossae, Paul gives thanks for the faith and love of the people who Paul wants to be filled with knowledge of God’s will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding, strengthened in all power according to God’s might. Sin is when we fail to meet his commandments, but Jesus then supports us in forgiving us our sins.
So we come to the parable of, such an oft quoted phrase today, ‘The Good Samaritan’. We talk of someone being a Good Samaritan, without really looking at the deeper meaning that surrounds this parable.
What was the true way of obeying the commandments if you came across a man beaten half to death by robbers in that blisteringly-hot, desert canyon between Jerusalem and Jericho? The priest and the Levite both had rules that they would be contaminated if they touched a dead man – in fact the priest would no longer have his job, he would be redundant from the church. His earthly rules laid down that it was more than his job was worth to touch such a man. In stark contrast we see that it was the Samaritan, one of the people whom the Jews disliked so much, who took action, not bound by man’s rules but by God’s.
Often this parable is taken in a general moral sense that if you see someone in the ditch, go and help them. But there is more to it. The hatred between Jews and Samaritans – people from Samaria – had gone on for hundreds of years; and it is reflected, tragically, in the smouldering tension between Israel and Palestine today. Both Jews and Samaritans claimed to be the true inheritors of the promises of Abraham and Moses; and therefore true inheritors of the land. Both held fixed views.
Being a Good Samaritan is as much about attitude as it is about action. We say actions speak louder than words, but really we cannot act without having the mind that understands the right way to act – to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength and our neighbour as our self.
What message does all this have for us as Christians, living in this country at present? Every day we hear of factions in political parties, of whether you are for leaving the European Union or for remaining. This spreads into family feuds. We can’t discuss the issues with friends unless you know which side they are on, and whether their views are the same as yours. More than any topic we seem to be almost breeding hatred for the ‘other side’ in a way I can’t recall we have ever done before. Short biting Twitter messages seem to be the order of the day. Fixed views indeed.
Many may consider that as the Church we have not been at our best in broadcasting a Christian view. To quote a letter in the Church Times (5 July 2019), ‘The Church of England, if it was supposed to speak with one voice, did not appear to espouse any particular view on the subject. If it did, then it should have spoken with rather more conviction, because, other than a mention in passing of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s voting intentions, little in the way of a Christian view of the issue was broadcast’.
As I see it, perhaps naively, the Christian view is clear, that we need to love our neighbour, as Jesus commanded us to do. There may be much imperfect about the EU, but we already have their laws only because, after debate, our Parliament has passed them. Being partners with our nearest geographical neighbours with whom we share so much history and culture is where we should have our future. And as Sheila Hancock said in an impassioned plea in a TV debate, we have had peace between our nations for 74 years.
Coming closer to home, what do we do in our own neighbourhood, loving our neighbour as our self, making sure that everyone in our own community is supported? Some work for that organisation called The Samaritans, who do such a vital job in relation to those in despair. We need to increase efforts for those who are on the fringes – not necessarily geographically but socially, economically and emotionally in Nantwich, where we the churches can be seen by being present.
What a great privilege we have as Christians. We have the very clear commands to love God, and to love our neighbours. May we make sure that our whole neighbourhood, our parish, our country, maybe Europe, is each one of integration, of welcoming. May we put aside any prejudice; and recognising everyone as in God’s image, take every opportunity offered us to be as Good Samaritans, in Jesus’s name. Amen