Caring for others, like the Good Samaritan

Our Reader Christine gave this sermon on Sunday 10 July 2022. Here it is again for you to ponder:

The first reading today from Amos reminded me of an inspirational quote from Mahatma Gandhi, which I’m sure some of you may know and which I know is written on a wall in a school and that is: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Amos is an ordinary person doing agricultural work, he was not a prophet and probably never thought about becoming one, but nevertheless God called him to prophesy and he therefore tries to be that change in the world, by passing on a message from God.  When he is challenged by Amaziah, he quite vehemently states, “I am no a prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but a herdsman and sycamore dresser.”  He emphasises that he doesn’t earn his living by prophesying, however, whether he realises it or not, he is basically changing his life to obey God and to take his message to the people of Israel.

Just as a side note a biblical sycamore tree should not be confused with our European species.  The one referred to in the Bible is related to the fig tree, but has smaller and less useful fruit than a fig tree.  However, the dresser of this tree would pinch the thin stalks to help ripen them and tend the tree to prevent insects from destroying its fruit.

So, for Amos, this and being a herdsman, is his everyday job, but for him to say he is not a prophet sounds a bit confusing especially, as he is basically prophesying and warning the people of Israel that they must repent or suffer the consequences that God will deliver.

And when confronted by Amaziah, Amos doesn’t falter he continues to obey God instead of obeying Amaziah, even though he knows he could face considerable punishment.  Amos’ is vulnerable, he is changing his life, but shows true courage and faith and that’s the change he wants to see in the people.

A faith that runs through the Old Testament to the New.  A faith of hope, love and forgiveness.

A faith that Paul, who changed his life to be a change in the world, is writing about to the Colossians in the first line of his letter.  “To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae.”  Paul is acknowledging the work that Epaphras has done in gathering together a group that from the outside might look like a rag tag band with no temple, no priests and no real meeting place.  These are again, like Amos, just ordinary people, however, their faith has begun to make a change within their own community.   As Paul puts it, “bearing fruit among yourselves,” as they grow in the knowledge of God.

Faith here is the knowledge that the Colossians are learning about God, about Jesus, about forgiveness, love, joy and hope.  They are learning about how to be witnesses to God’s kingdom and understanding how they have been rescued from darkness to light through redemption.   They have become the example of faith that others will follow and have become the change in the world around them.

In the same way the lawyer who is told to, “Go and do likewise,” would hopefully, with his new found faith, be the change in his community, after understanding Jesus’ explanation of who are neighbour is.

That’s something I think we are all well aware of, especially over the last couple of years, where I believe faith has played a large part in everyone’s life.

Faith that the outbreak of a virus, put everyone to the test and changed many lives, but faith that trusted in the knowledge of God.

COVID may have had a lot of negative effects and caused many heartaches, but one of the positive events that came about was the fact that neighbours got to know each other.  The vulnerable and lonely were recognised and included in events that took place, such as dancing, singing and exercising in the streets.  Groceries were provided and collected for those who couldn’t get out and everyone looked out for their neighbours, something that used to happen many years ago when my mother was a child.  When doors could be left open and the women who had children, would take it in turns to sit on their doorsteps or on chairs outside, sewing or knitting watching the children play while other mothers did their housework and then changed places.

The Good Samaritans were and are all around us even today and I hope and pray they are still active in those neighbourhoods where neighbours came together, because they became the change in their communities and an example of how we should care for all.

The Gospel story of the Good Samaritan is very familiar with many people and we acknowledge that Jesus is identifying everyone as our neighbours.

However, the use of a Samaritan in Luke would imply that they were distinct from other Jews and although there had been disagreements between them and the people of Israel, which of course caused tensions.  They were an integral part of the people of God and their inclusion indicates that God’s restoration of Israel has begun in earnest.  Faith was beginning to be restored and change was about to start.

This restoration began in the Old Testament and Jesus death and resurrection was to take this change to the “ends of the world” and to bring all God’s people home.  To restore faith, give hope, joy and forgiveness to everyone.

The parable is a call for all of us to emulate the compassionate Samaritan as we go about our daily lives living as followers of Christ and as God’s people being a change in the world.

It is through faith, example, attitude and behaviour that people affect others.

We all know and understand the power of role models and how the attitude and behaviour of others can affect and change the lives of those around them.

I know teachers and parents fully understand the role they play, particularly in the lives of their children and the effect it can have on their futures.

Unfortunately, and dare I say, politicians and leaders of nations can also affect the people they lead.

We as followers of Christ in the faith of God have our role to play in being the change we wish to see in the world.  To show compassion and not to pass by on the other side, but to be willing to lead by example and to become the fruit growing in the world around us.

Let us pray:

May we live this day, compassionate of heart, clear in word, gracious in awareness, courageous in thought, generous in love (John O’Donohue) and faith, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.  Amen.

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