Fr Bosco Peters presided and preached this Sunday. Our Gospel reading was the Good Samaritan, Luke .

Read on for the sermon and a video of the service.

Service Video


Why did the Samaritan cross the road?

On the news last week, they talked about Rotorua being three hours south of Auckland. I was reminded of the comedian Ismo Leikola from Finland - he visited New Zealand. He talks about our strange use of language. In Finland, he says, we measure distance by kilometres, and here we measure them - in minutes. He asked someone how far is the airport? They replied: 25 minutes. So, says Ismo, are you saying that the airport is in the future? Are you telling me that if I just wait 25 minutes I will be at the airport?

We take for granted language and cultural stuff. You probably took for granted that when I said “on the news last week” that I was watching TV.

There’s a lot of that language and culture stuff in the Bible - written in other languages, from different cultures, geography, and time, that we can so easily miss; that we can misunderstand.

Today, a lawyer - alarm bells, sorry lawyers - a lawyer is testing Jesus: what must I do - what must I DO to inherit eternal life?

So let’s first make sure we don’t think of “eternal life” as life that just goes on and on and on… Eternal life here - possibly the first cultural language issue - eternal life here refers to the life of God; God’s life. The good news is “eternal life” is not just about getting us into heaven in the future; the good news is about getting heaven into us - now.

And the lawyer asks about inheriting life with God. What must I DO to inherit. Well, to inherit - you have to be in the “in group”. What must I DO to be in the in-group of the life of God?

Jesus loves questions - loves questions. In the Bible, Jesus asks 307 questions. And of the 183 questions he is asked - he answers - 3. What must I DO to be in the in group of the life of God? Sorry, I probably spoiled it, didn’t I - this isn’t one of the 3 questions that Jesus answered. Jesus replies to this question, as he so often does - with a question - and why not?!

‘And who is my neighbour?’ - next question asked of Jesus. Sorry. Again. Jesus is going to reply to this question with a question. And with a cool story leading up to the question. Who is my neighbour? Who is in and who is out?

We live in a world that seems to more and more be dividing: in - and out. A war in Europe; USA seemingly close to civil war; wealthy and poor. Which group am I in? And who is not welcome in my group?

As we pick up Jesus’ story about this, first, we need to be sure we have a good handle on some of the more taken for granted stuff; that cultural stuff.

Remember a couple of weeks ago, in Luke’s previous chapter, Jesus was heading from the area of Galilee in the North through Samaria, the area in the middle, to Judea - with the city of Jerusalem there. Remember Dr Margaret Maclagan preached on this so well and we had Jesus and his friends entering a village of the Samaritans; but the Samaritans did not receive Jesus. And James and John, remember, wanted to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them. But Jesus disagreed with this approach.

Normally, in Jesus’ day, Samaria, where the Samaritans live, was an area to be avoided by good Jews - we hate the Samaritans; terrible people; they aren’t a pure race like us, they’ve interbred with those Assyrians that invaded us.

So mostly people avoid Samaria; they avoid the Samaritans - boo boo hiss hiss - terrible people, the Samaritans. So normally, when they went from Galilee, they travelled by going down to the Jordan river; then travel south past Samaria; and then at Jericho they head west up the road through the thieves-infested desert up to Jerusalem. And to go home, they simply reverse that, down from Jerusalem to Jericho - Helen and I have walked that road ourselves - then you go north up the river valley avoiding the Samaritans, and then back into Galilee.

But Jesus, a couple of Sundays ago, doesn’t hassle about avoiding Samaritans - Jesus doesn’t avoid anyone; or anything.

Well, in our story today, someone takes that Jerusalem-to-Jericho route home, avoiding Samaritans, and - he is attacked by robbers, stripped, beaten, and left for dead.

Don’t blame the Priest or the Levite for not touching what looks like a dead body - that’s part of the religious rules for a Jewish Priest and a Levite in the Bible: don’t go near dead people; normally don’t even go to funerals. They were being a GOOD Jewish priest and a GOOD Levite.

Now along comes a BAD Samaritan. Firstly, he’s not in Samaria - why not? Is he not in the in-group even in Samaria. And most atrociously, he crosses the road to help a - we have to presume, not a fellow Samaritan, but presumably a Jewish person who is on this particular road probably to avoid Samaritans!

The right question, says Jesus, is NOT who is my neighbour? But: who is neighbourly to the possibly-dead man lying in the ditch.

Jesus switches the viewpoint - we have to see the story from the point of view of the half-dead man lying in the ditch. When I am injured, near death, needing help, ANYONE who comes to help is neighbourly to me. ANYONE who stops the bleeding; anyone who does CPR; anyone who does mouth to mouth.

It doesn’t matter who they vote for; it doesn’t matter what their race, or culture, or gender, or orientation, or beliefs, or values are - if they help me when I am in dire need, they are being neighbourly to me.

Jesus takes his friends, Jesus takes us - fishermen, tax collectors, sinners - through the heart of Samaria. Jesus sees no boundaries, no divisions, where love could and couldn’t walk.

By ourselves, we might avoid Samaria. By ourselves, we might avoid our own INNER Samaria. By ourselves we might avoid our inner anger, our depression, our grief, our doubts, our confused and confusing desires. By ourselves we might avoid our shadow side, the parts within ourselves that we don’t want to even begin to think about. In our country, and internationally, we have a mental health crisis, a wellbeing crisis; the Samaria we try to avoid is huge.

And when you don’t face your inner Samaria - that comes out sideways, unhelpfully, damagingly, doesn’t it?

And we project all that outwards don’t we - we create in-groups, and look down on others; us - and them.

But Jesus helps us to face our Samaria; Jesus helps us to love my inner enemy so that I can learn to love my outer enemy. My inner bad Samaritan can be transformed into a good Samaritan.

I think Edwin Markham’s poem “Outwitted,” summarises Jesus’ message well:

They drew a circle that shut me out—
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took them in!

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