O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
you call us to fullness of life:
deliver us from unbelief
and banish our anxieties
with the liberating love
of Jesus Christ our Lord.
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the faithful and in the congregation.
The works of the Lord are great,
sought out by all who delight in them.
His work is full of majesty and honour
and his righteousness endures for ever.
He appointed a memorial for his marvellous deeds;
the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.
He gave food to those who feared him;
he is ever mindful of his covenant.
He showed his people the power of his works
in giving them the heritage of the nations.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
Reading: Luke 10.25-37
A lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’
The lawyer asked Jesus: And who is my neighbour?
In response to that question Jesus gave us one of his best known parables: the story of the Good Samaritan. This parable is so well known that the word ‘Samaritan’ has taken on a very specific meaning in our everyday language. There is even an organisation called ‘The Samaritans’ which exists to provide anonymous support to those who find themselves in a dark and desperate place. But to think of the Good Samaritan in this way is to sanitize Jesus’ parable, to make it a much cosier story than it really is.
To fully understand Jesus’ famous parable we have to acquaint ourselves with the political and religious landscape of first century Israel. We need to understand the depth of the racial and religious animosity that existed between the Jews and the Samaritans two thousand years ago. In fact, that animosity was already many hundreds of years old when Jesus was speaking of a Good Samaritan to that Jewish lawyer.
When the lawyer asked his question, his thinking was firmly rooted in the Jewish tradition. His God was the God of Israel; his neighbours were Jewish neighbours. It would not have occurred to that lawyer that a Samaritan could possibly be cast in the role of ‘neighbour’. Even when asked by Jesus who was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?, the lawyer does not seem to have been able to bring himself to utter the word ‘Samaritan’. His response was: the one who showed him mercy. Jesus’ final words in this passage must have stung that lawyer deeply: Go and do likewise. That is, go and be like the Samaritan.
The challenge in this well-known and often quoted parable is much greater than we generally imagine. The challenge is also very relevant to the world of 2020. There are many people who are struggling by the wayside at the moment. They may not have been attacked by robbers, but their hurts are just as profound. It is our role to set aside the urgency of our personal journeys, to stoop down from our self-serving and self-satisfied comfort, and to bring relief, love, peace and light in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray to be made perfect in the love of God and of our neighbours.
May the Church, rejoicing in the redemption won by Christ, show herself worthy of her calling and be abundant in good works. Give to all clergy and lay ministers the grace both to be faithful in duty and compassionate to need.
Give light to this world where pressure of living too often leads to indifference and hardness of heart. Through the great commandment of love teach all to live as neighbours.
Make us and all in our families ready to serve those who need our help. Keep us alert and sensitive to signs of distress. Give strength to those in this community who care for the hurt and afflicted.
Have mercy on victims of crime and violence. Mend their brokenness and restore them to wholeness of life. Help those who support them in their trouble.
Receive the souls of the faithful into their inheritance of light. Deliver them from all evil and grant them rest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
We offer our broken and imperfect prayers to be transformed by the compassion of Christ.
Prayer for the week
Lord and heavenly Father,
make us mindful of your presence with us;
that we may draw near to you
with holy and humble hearts,
and offer prayers and praises
acceptable in your sight;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
When I needed a neighbour, were you there, were you there?
When I needed a neighbour, were you there?
And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
were you there?
Wherever you travel I’ll be there, I’ll be there,
wherever you travel I’ll be there.
And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
I’ll be there.
Sydney Carter (1915–2004)