Family address preached by The Reverend Dr Joan Crossley on 2 November 2003 at St.Mark's and Putnoe Heights
In the reading today Jesus was rewriting the rulebook about love. Love, he said, was not to be limited to the immediate family circle; our babies, children parents, partners, cousins and friends.
He reminded His hearers of the command in Leviticus 19:18 that they were to love their neighbours as much as they loved themselves. In the Gospel according to St Luke, Jesus explained that “loving your neighbour” didn’t just mean the folks who lived near by, people who spoke, prayed and thought like you. Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, in which the person who showed the most love and compassion was a foreigner! From an enemy country, of a different religion with different manners and customs. And Jesus isn’t asking for luke-warm polite interest kind of love, He wants us to love the stranger the way we love ourselves, and that can only mean with passionate concern.
It is quite hard enough loving people who are like us, let alone people we find it hard to understand and relate to. The further away people are in space and cultural difference the harder it is to really engage with them. It takes imagination and effort. To explain what I mean, let’s pretend for a moment. That just as we were coming into Church this morning I had heard that a bomb had exploded outside the police station in Bedford and 38 people had been hurt, how would we feel? Shock,? Disbelief. “It can’t happen here!”. Fear? “Is someone I care about hurt or dead?” Personal fear, “will it be me who is attacked next time?” Or “my child?”
We can relax because actually it was Baghdad, not Bedford. The danger is far away. What Jesus is demanding of us is that we feel as outraged and compassionate about the people of Baghdad as we do Bedford. After all God feels their pain as deeply as He does ours - God isn’t an Englishman. God’s love and compassion for humanity isn’t limited and neither should ours be. Love must not be confined to the people we understand, like or approve of. God, in Jesus, is asking that we try and relate to strangers as deeply as our loved ones. We can begin by trying to care about them and to pray for them. Jesus is asking that we try and love each man, woman and child in the world as deeply as the beloved child whose photographs we treasure. Amen