Rev. Rosemary Webb
14th July 2019
Love Your Neighbour

One of the problems with the passage we have just heard from Luke is that we know it so well it can be hard to truly listen to it; truly think how we would have responded or more correctly how we do respond when faced with similar situations. It is one of those passages I have preached on many times, and it is an uncomfortable passage for not only does it apply to us as individuals but to all who call themselves the body of Christ – by which I mean the worldwide church.

If we look back through history there are so many people who stand out for their heroic acts, people who bravely go forward without any thought of the danger they are putting themselves in. But sadly, there are times when we are well aware that the worldwide Christian church lets people down. No difference really from the priest, the Levite, someone with a belief and trust in God, who crossed the road – what was he avoiding? Did he think he would get his clothes dirty, did he think another passer-by might think he knew the wrong type of people? – what was the reason? Did he think there might be a good reason in God’s eyes for not stopping?

It took the Samaritan – someone despised by the Jewish people, to walk up to the injured man, tend his wounds and then make sure he was cared for. Surely it all rings a bell for many of us, it is all too easy to be just too busy to stop, just too busy to get involved.

As with so many of Christ’s parables there is more to it than immediately meets the eye. The Jewish lawyer got up and asked Jesus the question ‘what shall I do to inherit eternal life’ and Jesus’ answer was ‘love God with all your heart and your neighbour as yourself’. To which the lawyer asked ‘who is my neighbour’?

In all Jesus’ parables there was always a way in which Christ could set a catch for the Jewish leaders listening, for how could a Samaritan ever be their friend, I mean, for goodness sake that answer was an affront to them – how could Jesus speak to them like that -it must prove he is not the Messiah for he would know better than to speak like that. He would know the Samaritans were sinners.

The relations between the Samaritans and Jews had been bad for centuries, and was perhaps even worse in Christ’s time. Tragically a forerunner to the present-day conflict between Jew and Palestinian both sides claiming to be the true inheritors of the promises made by Moses and Abraham.

But Jesus knew what he was saying – he knew he was stirring it up, but he wanted to make the point about true love, just what God means when he says we must love our neighbour. For our neighbour is not just those we know, but it is the stranger, even our enemy, the person we feel uncomfortable with – for whoever they are they are a child of God. I believe that in God’s eyes we are all equal.

So, are we, is the worldwide church walking by on the other side? When we read about China separating young Muslim children from their parents, do we stop and wonder what the world can do, or do we somehow think they must deserve it after all they are not Christian. There are about 13 million Muslims in south west China and whilst not all are being separated from their children, who are being sent away to special schools, what right have they to do it to any child. We are taking an interest in Hong Kong but surely, we should feel concern for all God’s children, and as soon as countries begin persecuting them, should we not be making sure the whole world knows about it. In fact, what about America, is what America is doing on the Mexican border just? Is that what God thinks a Christian country should behave? And what about us? Many things happen in our own country which we cannot be proud about. We express disgust that the Levite crossed the road rather than help but isn’t that just what the world is doing today, including the western world.

We need to remember that last week the TV news was recalling the eightieth anniversary of the ‘kinder children’ mainly Jewish, arriving in the UK from Europe. Some who are still alive were on the news, many had lived lives which had contributed much to this country. If they hadn’t been evacuated, they would most probably, like Anna Frank died in the gas chambers.

We say we are a democracy with a free press, and of course we have, but if our free press only bothers to report news about politicians arguing, sensational stories about politicians – yes perhaps we should know about it, but we should surely know about thousands of children being forcibly separated from their parents worldwide, by yet another dictator.

In so many countries children are dying, living lives of misery and the world does very little about it. In 1948 the world set up the United Nations so that the horrors of WW2 would not be repeated. I know the charities set up by the UN do great work, but do the politicians sent by our country, other countries make sure they are upholding human rights at all times. And do we make sure they do, or do we sit back think well we pay our taxes, and then just let them get on with it.

And as keen as I am on human rights, I have to confess I don’t know what issues have been discussed recently in the UN – whether they do truly tackle all the world’s major issues. Why don’t I know – I am too busy, just like those people invited to the feast – I can’t say I have just got married, or bought oxen, but of course I have grass to cut, a carpet to hoover – but then I don’t need to do the crossword puzzle each day. If it was my child, grandchild, being taken away I would so want the world to take notice, do something to help them.

However this isn’t new , In Colossians Paul speaks positively of the Christians’ faith, love, and hope and acknowledges that the Good News is bearing fruit and growing in them, However he is aware of serious problems with false teachings, and he is writing this letter to set them firmly in the basics of faith that Christ is one true centre of that faith. The hope is that this will enable them to better understand the nature and mission of Christ—who Christ was and is, and what Christ has come to do for them. This understanding will give them a firm faith to deal with the problems that have been occurring.

Paul knew that it was Christ’s words, and Christ’s words alone, that they must be following, that they must be nurtured in the faith, like grass is watered it make it grow, so must new believers be nurtured, not expected to find the message easy at first but be guided and helped on their journey just as Christ guided the disciples. Christ is the light of the world, if we will only look, we will see him shining in the dark, for his light is always there it never wavers.

Paul had to learn the hard way, let us reach out in faith, teach people the true Gospel Jesus wanted us to understand, and help those around us to know the Gospel, see that true light shining in the dark.

Eternal Life is an inheritance of God reserved for those who love him. But we cannot say we love him if we refuse to show mercy to people. For it is our love for one another which truly reveals our love for God. To show mercy and be a neighbour to all who are needy is the act of that love.

We must be a neighbour to anyone in need. Our neighbours are all God’s children, no matter what faith, creed or colour, regardless of what we feel, because whether we like it or not, what we feel means nothing for we are all, every one of us made in the image of Almighty God, the Father or us all, Creator of the world and all that is in it.

Luke 10: 25-37