When I first moved to Cardiff in July 2013 – I was out in the City Centre, and I sat down on a bench outside – and left my phone on the seat. It wasn’t until I came home that I realised my phone was missing, and I couldn’t for the life of me think where I had left it. I rang the shopping centre, on the off chance that someone might have handed it in, but it wasn’t there – and so I thought.
Right, let me ring it and just see. I did there was no answer, but it was still ringing.
Then I used the ‘Find my iphone’ app – and it said that my phone was in Ely.
Now, I had heard all kinds of things about the people of Ely, and about Ely as a community – oh, it’s very rough in Ely. You wouldn’t want to live in Ely….etc etc!
To cut a very long story short, I rang my phone again – the person answered, and they brought it back to me in Heath – for nothing. They didn’t even ask me to go to them. They had even charged it, so I could call as I was trying to find it.
I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this – I think it’s fair to say, that there isn’t much more that can be added to the parable of the Good Samaritan.
We know it well.
We imagine it in our minds eye – perhaps we can even put ourselves into the heart of the narrative. Perhaps too often, imagining ourselves to be the ‘Good Samaritan’….rather than one of those who just walk on by.
We know the question from the Gospels: ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ we might even imagine the people of Jesus’ day saying ‘Can anything good come out of Samaria?’
Yet, laughing at the judgemental nature of the people of Jesus’ day – we forget just how alike we really are.
Many of us here are guilty of saying in our hearts or even out loud:
‘Can anything good come out of Islam?’
‘Can anything good come out of Ely?’
‘Can anything good come out of Israel & Palestine?’
We know that in our hearts, we hold deep seated prejudices and judgements – which tar the whole because of the actions of a few – or even in some cases because of the actions of no-one, but just because we are consumed by the rhetoric of many.
We live in very uncertain times – we only have to put the TV on, or listen to the Radio to know that. The world is in a mess – and day by day, things seem to become less clear, and more complicated.
We haven’t got a clue who is leading the Labour Party, or who is leading the Tory party – we have no idea whether Nigel Farage really wants to step down this time, or whether he really means it. We have no idea, what the Chilcot Inquiry is really uncovering – but the truth in it all will come to light.
Did people die in vain? Were peaceful efforts exhausted? Were our troops properly supported with what they needed for the battle – it seems not.
And parents, and widows, and children are left to make sense of the mess they now find themselves in.
One of the questions we must ask ourselves today is the question ‘who is my neighbour?’. Remembering that the Lawyer who stood up to ask this of Jesus was really looking for a way out – he was hoping that Jesus might say something along the lines of ‘that is for you to decide’ – or ‘your neighbour is those people who are most like you’, but Jesus doesn’t pay a moments grace to the lawyers prejudice.
Those who were around at the time when Jesus told this parable will have been completely silenced by the way Jesus tells this parable. He mentions all of the kind of people that the crowds would have expected goodness to come from – the teachers, the rabbis, the priests – but no, it was the Samaritan who goes the extra mile.
‘But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.’
Note that he came near him, and saw him, and then he was moved with pity – he wasn’t moved with pity from a long way off….like we are when we see the poor and destitute on our streets – but the Samaritan came close – and saw him.
Nowhere in the parable is he called the ‘good’ Samaritan….as though there were only one, he’s just ‘a’ Samaritan going about his life.
I wonder how often we don’t come close to, or even see fully – those who are in need in our world, and in our Church? In those moments when we give the look and smile of pity to the big issue seller, or fix our gaze ahead of us, as we see a beggar approaching us…
Now, I believe that the world we are currently in, is going to prove a bit of a litmus test for us Christians.
Because for far too long, it has been acceptable to say the words – and do the actions within these four walls – but now the Lord is asking us to act, and to act swiftly – for if not us, then who, and if not now, then when?
Because right now, the hungry are still dying.
Right now, the stranger is still looking for a welcome.
Right now, the voiceless are being oppressed – and our silence, and our inaction is adding to that evil.
By all means wear safety pins, and write to your MP’s but also commit to work on the depths of your heart, and mind and soul too!
And let Jesus Christ begin his work of change in you, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
One of the things that became absolutely clear to me during the Methodist Conference last week in London, was that:
It’s no longer good enough for the Church to not be the Church.
It’s no longer good enough for us to be people of good intentions, but full of inaction.
It’s no longer good enough for Christians to keep their faith private, and discreet.
It’s no longer good enough, for us to leave the public square void of a Christian voice, and Christian witness – if more God-fearing Christians were in Parliament it would be a very different place.
In his reflections on his first year as Secretary of the Conference The Revd Gareth Powell said: “If you walk in to your average Methodist church, you will find countless leaflets, countless posters, about countless busy activities, but you rarely find anything that tells you about the salvific love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.”
The integrity of Christian words – is in their actions.
If people are to be converted to the faith of Jesus Christ, then they will want to see how seriously we take the words of the one who is God made flesh. To love our neighbour – to give and not to the count the cost – to sacrifice our own comfort to enable the stranger to find a welcome. In this post-referendum climate – the love of Jesus Christ made known through us – is more necessary than ever.
For there has not been, nor shall there ever be a referendum on the values of the Gospel – and even if there was, the message would still stand true. That love, and friendship, and generosity and welcome – are the things of Jesus Christ – and fear, racism, prejudice, injustice and oppression are the ways of darkness, and death, and Satan.
What the parable of the Good Samaritan shows us so clearly, is that words alone do not save lives – nor do good intentions, nor does retrospective penance – but sacrificial love, costly love, radical love, goodwill on fire – found in Jesus Christ – that is what changes and transforms the life of the world. And it is that love – the love of neighbour, the love of the stranger, the love of the ‘other’ it is that love that leads to eternal life.
‘Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’
May Jesus Christ true God and true Man, give us that love of neighbour – through which we may come to see and know more clearly – the revelation of his love in the depths of our hearts and lives.