Sermon preached by The Reverend Charles Royden
Parable of the Good Samaritan
The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most important and well known parable which Jesus told his disciples. We like it because it is a great story and it is also an answer to the most profounding searching of the human soul. This lawyer asks Jesus the question which has troubled human beings from the beginning of time, What do I have to do to be acceptable to God when they die? What is it that we must do to ensure that we are forgiven and our name is written in the great book of life?
I have no great love of lawyers in fact when one of those adverts comes on the television for injury lawyers for you, ‘where there’s blame there’ s claim.’ I become really angry and call them vultures. Alex said to me this week, if they promise now in no fee and you get all of the compensation then how do they get paid? Well that of course is lawyers for you, they think we are all daft. Perhaps this lawyer felt guilty for all of the employers he had taken to court for compensation when somebody wasn’t looking where they were going, or took the wrong ladder out in the van. Perhaps he worried that he had not said enough prayers, or gone to Church. His conscience was troubled and he needed to know how he could be assured of life beyond death when he met his maker.
In answer to the question Jesus tells a story, to show what God finds important. It is a wonderful story about a man who travels a route from Jerusalem to Jericho which was so dangerous that it became known as The Blood Way.’ The man is beaten up and left for dead. Then a Priest and a Levite came along and literally passed by on the other side. The story has become so well known that the phrase Good Samaritan has become synonymous with somebody who helps somebody else. From this story we learn the importance of helping others, and by so doing showing the qualities which God wants of us.
The late Margaret Mead, a well-known anthropologist, was asked on one occasion what marked the earliest sign of civilization in a given culture. The questioner expected the answer to be a clay pot or perhaps a primitive tool. Dr. Mead replied, “A healed femur.” She explained that no healed femurs are found where the law of the jungle - the survival of the fittest - reigns. A broken leg that has been healed shows that someone cared for the injured person. Somebody had to do the injured person’s hunting and gathering until the leg healed. So, Mead suggested, compassion is the first sign of civilization.
However the parable is a lot more than a just a lesson in kindness If we try and put ourselves in the position of those who heard this parable. They would have probably said, well that’s what those priests are like, they think so much of themselves but they never practice what they preach. So too the Levites, they were full of themselves. Let’s try and bring the parable up to modern times
So walking down the road first of all are the people we dislike. Which professions today would Jesus have used ?
I looked at polls of people we do not trust , who do we trust least of all ? Apparently we are suspicious of journalists, politicians and government ministers, trade union officials, tele sales people, estate agents andcar sales people.
Who do we trust ?
Nurses, medics, ambulance people, teachers and clergy scored highly and pilots. We like the people who look after us, not people who try and sell us things
So let’s do what Jesus did and change the parable to our more modern times. First down the road comes a politician fresh from filling in their expenses form What do he do ? He walks by on the other side - no surprise there then ! Second down the road comes — A lawyer, an Estate Agent, A car sales man ??? and he walks on the other side. So far everybody is on board with the story, a bunch of slimey no gooders, so far the hypocrites have been exposed. Then the third person come down the road, the cavalry arrives. At last somebody is going to do a good turn and fix this poor chap. Who is it going to be ? A nurse or paramedic, a teacher, a humble vicar?
Well imagine those people waiting for Jesus to reveal the identity of the good guy. Who does he go for. He chose a Samartian. We need to know that Samaritans were not liked, they were despised they were racially impure, they were low life. So bring that into our context today and it is not a nurse, or a teacher who helps the poor guy, it is somebody that you and I do not like. Once again as he so often does, Jesus tricks us and when we have become all complacent he challenges our prejudice and fears. Think of somebody, some groups, that you do not like, it could be the asylum seekers, sorry the bogus asylum seekers, it could be any of the groups that the tabloids like to poke abuse at and reinforce our worst prejudice. The listeners would have been on Jesus side right up to the third person coming along and at that point they would have realised that their love for other people was a lot less like God’s.
God loved everybody and they just loved people like themselves. The way of Jesus requires that we think differently about categories of people. At the time of Jesus the religion which was all pervasive in society, had categorised people with sharp boundaries between those who were clean and those who were unclean. Some people were righteous and some people were sinners. Some nationalities are OK and some nationalities are not. We do the same ourselves, we might not realise it but we do. Can I suggest that public opinion would never have allowed our government to bomb Australia and caused the number of civilian casualties that we did in Iraq. Some of you may disagree, but those of you who do agree - let’s go on and ask ourselves why would we have been so angry at bombing Australians? Surely they would have deserved it they beat us at cricket? It would have been a problem because Australians are more like us. They are white, they speak our language, — sort of. They live in a country where we would like to visit and they have barbques and sit on the beach all day, how cool is that.? Not at all like Iraqis.
Jesus in this parable is saying that we are only close to God if we are able to break down the barriers which divide his children from one another. He uses as an example of a neighbour somebody who is of another religion and another race. Just like Iraqis. In this parable Jesus seeks to break down boundaries, helping us to recognise that God’s way is one of compassion which unites and includes. This is what real religion is all about and it is how we become friends with God, by living his way. Each day we have opportunities to help others, to express God’s love in acts of compassion. This week, see if you can find opportunities to show love and compassion to somebody who needs your help and do not restrict that just to people that you like.