Sunday sermon 14 July – There’s more than one neighbour in the street

Reading: Luke 10:25-37

Message:

Okay this is an easy one today! Early tea – more time to chat and then go shopping.

I mean what’s to discuss – the guy got it right!

  • Love God
  • Love Neighbour
  • end of story!

The simplest explanation is the easiest – that everyone in need is in fact your neighbour.

Not that people – Christians – necessarily get involved in helping people in need. We do walk on by quite a bit. Like walking through a bazaar or market –or in a shopping centre – we dare not make eye contact with someone trying to sell us something. You can’t get away from a sales pitch that easily.

We easily look away from those in need.

So reminder number one today is simple. If you’re making notes:

1. Note to self – anyone in need is my neighbour.

Love God and love your neighbour go together.

Of course it’s a three way street!

God  <———->   Us    ————–>   Neighbour

Knowing the love of God – experiencing it – sharing Jesus compassion (read Tuesday’s sermon on line for those who didn’t make it) – having a message and commodity of peace with God to trade with (for that read last Sunday’s sermon on line!) means that we are actually empowered to do this!

2. Note to self – the Samaritan was an unexpected neighbour to the half-dead mugged neighbour.

God   ———————> Samaritan  —————————->    mugged man

3. Note to self – Jesus speaks about prejudice, anger, rage and things that separate us here.

Add another layer and it gets interesting:

God

Samaritan        ————————–>     mugged man/Jew

Samaritans    <———————–>    (not good)  < ———————->      Jews

Jews and Samaritans clearly did not get on!

I found this poem by a famous Israeli poet this week which really helped me on this one. Frederick Buechner posted this on his website – his articles and books are profound. Here it is:

The Place Where We Are Right

Yehuda Amichai

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood. 

It’s about hard hearts versus soft hearts really!

Something was happening in the Samaritan that smacked of a real faith and compassion – but the Jewish listeners would have hated the idea of a Samaritan being a hero – because their theology was wrong – their racial mix wrong – their temple wrong.

Sound familiar?

1. Note to self – anyone in need is my neighbour.

2. Note to self – the Samaritan was an unexpected neighbour to the half-dead mugged neighbour.

3. Note to self – Jesus speaks about prejudice, anger, rage and things that separate us here.

Of course the lawyer’s response is accurate – as you are when you deal with law. Listen again:

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise. (Luke 10:36-37)

How are we doing so far?

Will you remember this?

Oh of course – you know this already.

David Lose suggests and alternative reading to this text altogether.

This really spoke to me. Listen to what he says: But then Jesus goes and does something different, right at the end. He doesn’t ask who was the Samaritan’s neighbour; rather, he asks, who acted like a neighbour. The answer, of course, is obvious to the lawyer and to us: it is the Samaritan, the one who went out of his way to help another. But do you notice how this changes things? Suddenly the neighbour isn’t simply the one in need, but rather the one who provides for our need, the one who takes care of us.

He goes on. Listen carefully: Which raises an interesting – and often uncomfortable – question: who has been our neighbour by caring for us of late? This is uncomfortable because we spend so much of our time, energy, and money trying to be invulnerable, trying precisely to need as little as possible from those around us. Perhaps it’s a fear of being a burden, or a concern about “owing” others, or that we are just afraid of being vulnerable because if we show our need that need may not be met. Whatever the reason, however, so many of us are absolutely mortified by the idea of showing our deepest needs to others and have a hard time receiving a compliment let alone serious aid or help.

4. Note to self – I need to let people be a neighbour to me too

In my own life I have had to learn to let people be a neighbour to me as well. I am telling you this because I know that some of you are also like me. You don’t want to be vulnerable. You sometimes think that you have to manage – cope – be tough. I am learning to depend more on others.

Being dependent on others is not easy for most of us. And as we get older it gets harder.

Nothing is worse than feeling that it’s all out of control – when simple becomes impossible and normal a mystery.

I have learnt that I need to let people be a neighbour to me.

That does not mean I will deliberately make myself vulnerable.

Not at all.

But the point is – that we are created for community and we do need each other.

I am so grateful for the people who are supporting me at this time – especially Sheilagh, my wife, and our staff here.

Listen again to the extract from David Lose – the question is:

(Which raises an interesting – and often uncomfortable – question) –  who has been our neighbour by caring for us of late? This is uncomfortable because

  • we spend so much of our time, energy, and money trying to be invulnerable, trying precisely to need as little as possible from those around us.
  • Perhaps it’s a fear of being a burden, or a concern about “owing” others, or that we are just afraid of being vulnerable because if we show our need that need may not be met.
  • Whatever the reason, however, so many of us are absolutely mortified by the idea of showing our deepest needs to others and have a hard time receiving a compliment let alone serious aid or help.

 Paul – speaking about his thorn in the flesh – writes these words in 2 Corinthians 12:9 and 10

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Okay personally I think that he overstates things here. I am not really thrilled with “insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.” I am less than thrilled. Delight is a strong word here. Sometime when I have the energy I will investigate the root of the word “delight” here and hopefully it will make more sense. (If you were here on Tuesday you will remember that words studies can be fun – Jesus when moved with compassion – well the word is to do with a bowel sensation. Tricky but it makes the point of a deep feeling!)

So let’s go back to our diagram then. There are various directions that the arrows point.

What travels along those lines? Love, blessing, thanksgiving, encouragement, worship and praise – in a dynamic relationship. Compassion and help clearly apply along the human continuum.

God <———————————–>Us  <————————— >  Neighbour

There are various possibilities where hard hearts need to be softened so that life can appear. Look at the list:

Us                 <—————————>            Neighbour

Samaritan           <—————————>           Jew

Black             <—————————>                 white

Male                <—————————>               female

Old                      <—————————>              young

Friend                <—————————>             stranger

Pastor                   <—————————>           parishioner

The list goes on!

So to recap… Somewhere in this list something applies to each of us:

1. Note to self – anyone in need is my neighbour.

2. Note to self – the Samaritan was an unexpected neighbour to the half-dead mugged neighbour.

3. Note to self – Jesus speaks about prejudice, anger, rage and things that separate us here.

Clearly love here means wanting the best for them – not that we are in love with them or even like them! Jesus’ compassion for the world of people is our foundational principal here.

Cleary we have work to do about our attitudes!

But this last one is a word in season really:

4. Note to self – I need to let people be a neighbour to me too

Don’t be afraid of depending on others – asking for help – asking for prayer – asking for counselling – asking for a lift – asking for a friend.

Mentoring others – journeying with them is the most crucial thing.

Pride is a killer.

One of my struggles here – as a leader – is that a lot of people are proud. They’ve made up their mind on things that are really important – and they are not necessarily allowing the Lord to work in their lives.

I reckon it would be good to sit in on the conversation between the recovered Jewish victim and the compassionate and generous Samaritan – if you can use your imagination.

It’s the kind of inspiration that comes from the pictures of amazing people in our generation:

There are plenty of other examples.

And there are those of you who really do care for your neighbours in every possible way – here in this place and community.

So much happens behind the scenes – following Jesus’ recipe for giving in general: But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing (Matthew 6:3)

So a gentle reminder:

4. Note to self – I need to let people be a neighbour to me too

It’s okay to be vulnerable. We are cursed by self-help schemes. They don’t work in the same department as faith, trust, and dependence, all of which are Christian virtues and blessings.

The basic framework for all of this is GRACE – the undeserved gift of salvation, new life, the new creation, a new heart, a renewed mind –unmerited favour shown in Jesus.

And – to put in a word for what is in fact a foundational belief I have – we make ourselves vulnerable and receive the love of neighbours especially in our home groups – where we allow them to be places of life and not just theoretical knowledge. It requires honesty – integrity – and openness to grow as people. That is God’s will for us. Amen!

PS – here’s a great summary in a visual form. We need to be the solid citizens – doing the stuff that the solid line indicates!

good-samaritan-cartoon

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About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. I also enjoy my counselling work, especially with young people.

Posted on July 18, 2013, in Sunday Morning Sermons and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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