This sermon was preached at St Mary’s Diss for the 8am Eucharist on the 14th of July 2019. Reading: Luke 10:25-37.
May I speak in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The story of the Good Samaritan is one of those with which we are likely familiar. In fact, it’s possibly one of the best known stories which Jesus used in his teaching, with other strong contenders being the story of the Prodigal Son and, perhaps, the wise man who built his house upon the rock. There are many good reasons for this, chief of which being that it’s a very good short story. It’s easy to remember, and so easy to retell in conversation, and the moral point comes through very clearly. As such why would a curate like myself be cautious in how to preach on it?
There’s certainly no shortage of things to say.
However, I remember when I was a young boy, maybe 9 or 10 years old, when we would stay with my grandparents in Reigate I would sleep in my grandfather’s study. These were my mother’s parents, and my Grandfather John was also a priest in the Church of England. So when I would lie down to sleep on the camp bed, I would be surrounded by towering bookcases laden with theological books and more translations of the bible you could shake a stick at. Often I would wake up early and try finding a book which looked interesting and I would go and sit in the dining room and read until people came down for breakfast.
I remember I once picked up one of Granddad’s bibles and I sat at the table reading until Granddad came down. He sat next to me with his bible and asked me what I was reading. I told him I was reading Luke, and for a while we sat there together both quietly reading Luke from our different bibles. Granddad asked me, so what do you think of what you’ve been reading? Does anything stand out?
And I remember very clearly saying that I was surprised by Jesus. He asked me why?
I responded that I didn’t know that Jesus was such a good teacher! I’m reading what he says and he tells a story and it makes sense. But when we’re in Church we hear Jesus speak and then someone else talks about it and I get confused about it and lose interest.
My Granddad chuckled and smiled, “Well I think Jesus is the best teacher. All we can ever do is try and help point people back to him and hope that what seems clear and obvious to us will also make sense to them.”
This sense that Jesus is the best teacher has never left me. How then can I preach on this story? What then can I offer which points back to Jesus as he teaches us something important through this story of the Good Samaritan?
I could highlight the parallels between the robbers and the priest, levite and samaritan and indeed the injured man. But at different times we will each be able to identify we each of them. Sometimes we oppress, sometimes we are abused, and other times we hesitate and pass on by, ignoring the people whom God loves because we would rather not have to be the one by whom God loves them.
I could highlight that the lawyer asked, who is my neighbour but Jesus answers by saying who was a neighbour to the man who fell to the hands of the robbers?
Not, who is my neighbour but who was his neighbour.
The lawyer answered, the one who showed him mercy. Jesus said: Go and do likewise.
And herein lies the window of opportunity for the preacher.
The passage had begun with the lawyer demonstrating that he had good technical knowledge of the Law and more than this that he seemed sincere in wanting to live this out: to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul, and with all our strength and with all our mind; and to love our neighbour as ourselves.
This, Jesus acknowledged, was the right answer. How does this look though? It looks like showing mercy.
As faithful Christians who come to the 8 O’Clock Eucharist, we probably know a lot more of the right answers than those who don’t. This is a good and praiseworthy thing. By coming and worshipping together and reflecting on what we have heard we are doing well. We are also aware of the importance of the sacrament of the Eucharist as a means by which we experience and abide within God’s mercy extended towards us in his son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. This sacramental presence of mercy is why we gather here at the start of the day.
The challenge comes not in being here for 8 o’clock. It comes in leaving.
The challenge comes not in repenting, though that can be hard, and receiving God’s mercy but in being merciful to others.
The Church as the Church of God, of which we are a faithful part, cannot be like other groups which are active and present solely for themselves. That is, the Church cannot put herself first or be inward looking. She must be self-critical, but never to the extent that she does nothing or forgets her place in the world.
And that place is to be a living sacrifice, the embodiment and display of God’s mercy which he has extended to us and through us extends to the world.
Who was the neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? The one who showed him mercy.
Let us go and do likewise.