The Good Samaritan
—Margaret Bird, 10 July 2016
Luke 10. 25–37
These are very familiar verses from Luke’s Gospel.
Jesus expands the two great commandments from Old Testament that we find in Deuteronomy and Leviticus. Of course, this then raises a question in the listener who asks Jesus—who is my neighbour?
Jesus then continues his teaching by singling out those who should know better. He contrasts them with the other person in the story: the outsider, the Samaritan, the unaccepted, the non-Jew.
This story is so well-known that when our sister church, All Saints, hosted a visit from the Sikh faith school in Slough, the Khalsa school, the children were able to tell us the story because they had heard it in their RE lessons as an example of the teaching of the Christian faith.
The Good Samaritan has passed into the English language to mean the kindness of the stranger; the organisation that offers a listening ear to the depressed and the desperate use it too.
Perhaps because it is so familiar we run the risk, when we hear this passage, of just focusing on the essence of the story rather than engaging with it and asking what it says to us today?
Jesus is talking to a lawyer—he wants him to see that, if he were there, he could be the one who passes by—Is he someone who is so caught up with his own needs and his own purpose of catching Jesus out that he fails to see what is happening all around him?
The respected members of Jesus’ society, the leaders, the models of human virtue and followers of the law laid down by Moses are the ones that Jesus identifies as most likely to forget and dismiss the humanity in the scene. Someone, a human being, is likely to die unless someone stops and helps him. What sort of person walks on by and allows this individual to continue suffering?
We don’t know who he is or what happens to him next. We only know that he is loved and cared for by a complete stranger who is not of the same race, not one of the chosen people, the Jews.
The focus of this story is not just the Good Samaritan, those that pass by or the innkeeper. It’s also about the injured man lying by the roadside. It’s about how he feels; does he feel rejected, in pain, lost, abandoned? He is often forgotten—a necessary part of the story but not identified in any way, faceless, stateless. What if he died despite the efforts of the Samaritan—does it change the focus of this story? Does it become more poignant, more urgent if we hear the man is now dead because aid did not come quickly enough?
How many strangers do we meet during our life—we pass by, mostly without even noticing, not making eye contact or wanting to stop. We meet them in the street, in the supermarket on a bus or a train. We don’t know these people, we’re not aware of their stories. We might smile or say good morning but that’s all - most of the time. But perhaps that might be the only time that day that he or she will have any sort of contact with another human being.
What lies behind that smile, that half greeting. Are they in a hurry to get away from us or do they fear any contact with a stranger they do not trust? What pressures do they face? Are they near death too in need of a little comfort and hope?
Too many people, too little time we just don’t have the opportunity to get to know them.
What if we see someone in need—a man collapsed on the street, a woman whose handbag has been snatched—a lost tourist in the middle of Windsor who doesn’t speak our language and has become separated from their group?
It’s much easier to pretend we haven’t noticed isn’t it?
Do we pass by on the other side hoping another will stop and help?
Everyone has a story to tell—we can’t tell just by looking how they are feeling, if they are troubled or in need; if they are lonely or grieving.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is a tale of lost opportunities—when we ignore or reject the plight of a stranger we are rejecting all that Jesus shows us, all that he leaves us and his invitation to be like him in the communities where we live.
Jesus reminds us that we are called to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbour, care for our neighbour. And in that parable he explains to us that anyone can be our neighbour. The injured man, the one who stopped and those who passed by—they are all our neighbour even when we find what they do and what they say difficult.
We are called to honour the God-given humanity in each other.
As human beings created in the image of God, we each have a responsibility to respect and care for one another.
Last week, our Bishops asked us to respond to the call to mark last Friday as a day of prayer for the Nation. You may have read and seen that since the EU referendum vote, the number of recorded incidents of hate crime has increased considerably. As Christians living in a multicultural society we are reminded to support our neighbours who were not born in this country and people of different races and religions. The Moslem and Polish communities were especially targeted by racially motivated sections of our society.
So on Friday the Parish Church opened its doors; on the Wall at the bottom of the steps and inside the church signs read—This Church welcomes people of all faiths and people of none, all races, All genders, All sexualities, All nationalities, All are welcome in this place of prayer. During the day, we offered a welcome to all who came in, prayed regularly during the day for those who were afraid, who had suffered abuse and those whose future was uncertain; we invited those who wished to write a message of support for the victimised and to take away some suggestions for prayers.
As Christians we are invited to put ourselves into that parable of Jesus.
You may be aware that all of the PCCs in the Team have been looking at an organisation that is called—Inclusive Church. Inclusive Church seeks to demonstrate the Christian ethos of welcome and non-exclusion by displaying and advertising its commitment to be open to all-comers. In September everyone will have an opportunity to listen to a representative of Inclusive Church who is coming along to speak to us and answer questions.
These words from Luke’s Gospel are not just about our willingness to reach out and help the stranger. They challenge us to reassess our own response to the world, to our communities today
Human beings are very good at creating the barriers that prevent us from seeing the humanity in one another.
Jesus asks us to make a difference—to change lives. We are in a life changing business.
True discipleship is when we are able to replace those human barriers that divide us with the love and compassion that Jesus offers to us.
We love because he loved us first. It seems incredible that the place where Jesus lived and taught should still be a place of division and barriers filled with such mistrust and hate. Jesus came to break down those barriers and to allow those outside to come in. No one was to be denied or passed by. Jesus welcomed everyone even the nameless and the stateless.
We are not called to be the local do-gooder; we are just asked to use those opportunities that open up to us each day to show the love of Jesus in our community.
To see Christ in our world, be Christ in our world so that we may live in him and he may live in us. Amen.
Eternal God, Light of the nations, in Christ you make all things new: guide our nation in the coming days through the inspiration of your Spirit, that understanding may put an end to discord and all bitterness.
Give us grace to rebuild bonds of trust that together we may work for the dignity and flourishing of all; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.