Sermons from St Faith's   


Fred Nye, Sunday, 10th July, 2016

I once had a neighbour, who I’ll call Ann, who lived (shall we say) at number 18. She was a friendly woman, and particularly helpful to the elderly disabled lady who lived next door to her at number 20. But one day, when Ann and I got talking about the business of ‘loving your neighbour’ it gradually became clear that for Ann ‘neighbour’ meant the people living either side of her. For Ann, the duty to love one’s neighbour didn’t seem to include anyone else!

In the gospels, when Jesus talked about being a neighbour he wasn’t just talking about getting along with the people next door: he had a much wider vision.  Jesus said that we are to love our neighbours as ourselves, and in the story of the Good Samaritan he explained what he meant by this. The Samaritans and the Jews, although they shared the same scriptures, had been religious enemies for centuries – and I’m sure I don’t have to dwell this morning on the misery that religious hatred and fear of the foreigner still cause all over the world. So it’s a surprise that in talking to his fellow Jews, Jesus used the hated Samaritan as an example of a good neighbour. 

In the story Jesus told, a Jewish traveller is attacked, beaten up, and left half-dead by the roadside. Along comes a priest, but he avoids all contact with the injured man. After all the poor man might be dead, and the priest would be ritually contaminated if he touched a dead body. So he gives the man a wide berth and passes by on the other side of the road. Close behind, and following him, is his assistant, a Levite. But if his boss is afraid to help, why should he? It would be more than his job’s worth. So he too crosses to the other side of the road and hurries on. And so despite the injured traveller being in effect his enemy, it is the hated and despised Samaritan who rescues him, tends his wounds, and carries him to a place of safety. But imagine the scene as the Samaritan faced the crowd at that inn, with one of their countrymen half dead and slung over his mule – it’s a miracle that they didn’t lynch him on the spot.

Since the earliest times, Christian scholars have seen Jesus himself mirrored in the character of the Good Samaritan. Jesus’s love for the world was so great that it crossed all human barriers, even the barriers of hate and prejudice, so great that he gave his life for us on the Cross.

We see all around us the effects of this sort of transforming love, and perhaps above all in human relationships. Children who are brought for   

baptism in our church come surrounded and fed by their parents’ love, and as they grow up supported by family and friends they become secure, strong, generous and at peace because of that love. And as they grow in faith within the family of the church we pray that they will reflect some of that transforming love back into the world.  As baptised Christians we are all called to follow Jesus across the boundaries of enmity and prejudice, called to help him transfigure our world from a place of hate and suffering into a realm of light and joy and peace.

In baptism, Jesus invites us all to join him on his journey.

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