Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sermon: Luke 10: 25-37 Who is my neighbour?


Good - thumbs up ‘good, good’
Love - cross your heart ‘love love love’
Neighbour - shake hands ‘hello neighbour’
Priest - hands in air ‘hallelujah!’
Levite - hands together ‘hmm - praying meditation noise’
Samaritan - angry face ‘boo’

One day, a man asked Jesus what he had to do to get eternal life. How GOOD is GOOD enough? JEsus asked him what the Old Testament law said. 

To be GOOD enough for God, here’s what you need to do. You need to LOVE God with all of your heart - your feelings and emotions. You need to LOVE God with all your soul - your very being. You need to LOVE God with all your strength - in all you do. And you need to LOVE God with all your mind - in the thoughts you think. 

That means we are meant to always, fully and totally LOVE God with everything we are and have. And as if that’s not enough, we are also to LOVE our NEIGHBOUR as much as we LOVE ourselves. 

LOVE God and LOVE your neighbour. That’s the bar you have to reach to earn your own salvation - it’s like an impossibly high high jump bar. None of us can reach it. None of us can do it. 

But this man thought that he might be able to do it all by himself. And so he wants to check the terms and conditions - the small print of the agreement. So, wanting to justify himself, he asks Jesus a question. Just a small question. Four/five words: who is my NEIGHBOUR?

The man is thinking to himself that if your NEIGHBOUR is just the person who lives next door to you, then he might be able to LOVE that person. 

But Jesus answers his question by telling a story. It’s a story of a man who was on a journey. And on the way, he was attacked, beaten and robbed. He was sore, and left for dead. 

After a wee while, he heard someone coming along. He looked up, and saw that it was a PRIEST who was coming. Oh GOOD, the man thought. This PRIEST will help me. But, the PRIEST didn’t want to help. He pretended not to notice the man. He crossed the road, and walked past on the other side. The PRIEST was no help at all. 

Soon another person came along the road. He was a LEVITE, who also worked at the temple with the PRIEST. Surely he would do something GOOD to help him? But the LEVITE also pretended not to see him. He also crossed the road, and walked on by, just like the PRIEST. 

After a while, someone else was coming. But this man was a SAMARITAN. Now, the Jews didn’t like the SAMARITANS. The SAMARITANS were considered their enemies. Jews and SAMARITANS didn’t get on. He wouldn’t get any help from him. After all, the SAMARITANS couldn’t do any GOOD, they were such bad people. 

Yet the SAMARITAN stopped with the man. He had compassion on the man. He helped the man, by binding up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He brought the man to an inn, and paid for him to stay there and be looked after. This SAMARITAN did lots of GOOD for the beaten up man. 

Then Jesus asked this simple question. Think of the PRIEST, the LEVITE and the SAMARITAN. Which of them was a GOOD NEIGHBOUR to the man in need? It wasn’t the PRIEST. he ignored the man’s need. It wasn’t the LEVITE. he ignored the man’s need. The GOOD NEIGHBOUR was the SAMARITAN. (So I think we should stop boo-ing when we hear him mentioned...)

Even though the two men weren’t from the same country, or supported the same team, or liked the same things - the Samaritan was an example of a good neighbour. He helped whoever needed his help, whoever they were. 

So our neighbour isn’t just the person who lives next door. Our neighbour is everyone in the whole world. To be perfect, to earn our own salvation by ourselves, to be good enough to gain heaven - we would have to love God perfectly, and love everyone in the whole world. And that is impossible. We’ve already realised that today, and confessed our failures to God. We can’t do it ourselves. 

But Jesus did live this perfect life. He loved God with his heart, soul, strength and mind. He always perfectly obeyed his Father’s will. And he loved his neighbours as he loved himself. Who are Jesus’ neighbours? That’s everyone who ever lived. That’s you and me. And Jesus loved us perfectly, by laying down his life for us. 

Jesus is the Good Samaritan, because he had compassion on us. He gave himself for us in our need. He helped us by dying on the cross for us. 

We can’t do it by ourselves. But Jesus has done it for us. He has been our Good Samaritan, the one who loves you. And in response he calls us to love one another. To put others first. Even the people we don’t like and don’t get on with. And you might think - that’s still impossible! But when Jesus is your friend, when you follow him, he gives us his Holy Spirit to help us love God and love others. He makes us to become more like Jesus, who did love like this. It’s amazing love. It’s love that is so amazing that we ask: Amazing love how can it be that you my King would die for me?

This sermon was preached at the Love So Amazing family service in St Matthew's Church, Richhill on Sunday morning 18th February 2018.

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