Thanksgiving Luke 10:25-37
Going to the aid of others can be a costly exercise. The following story
was reported by an Italian newspaper in 2001. A local motorist spent a
good part of an evening in December 2001 literally glued to the road.
He was driving from Milan to Pavia, when the truck in front of him smashed
into a tree. Drawing his car to a halt he got out to check on the driver
of the truck. Only he didn't make it that far. The truck had been carrying
extra strong construction glue, and when it turned over the glue went
flooding across the road. The helpful motorist and his car both got stuck
to the surface. Fortunately he had a mobile phone and was able to call
for help. It was some hours into the night before his rescuers were able
to dissolve the glue and set him free!
Serving others can often be like that. It would be easier to just get
on with our lives and leave others to deal with their problems on their
own. When we get involved it can have unforeseen consequences and inconveniences.
However it can make all the difference to someone else.
You may be wondering why I have chosen the parable of the Good Samaritan
as part of our harvest celebrations this year. Well, I hope to point out
its relevance as we go along. Harvest is a time to be mindful that we
are dependent on the creation and as people of faith, we believe in a
Creator who sustains all of life. So the starting point of harvest is
shared with the starting point of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus
told the story in response to the question of a religious lawyer: what
must I do to inherit eternal life? In other words, he was concerned with
God and with spiritual things. As good a place for any of us to start!
As he often did, Jesus turned the question back to the questioner: you’re
a lawyer, what do you know from your own expertise? The lawyer gave a
standard summary of the law: love God with all of who you are and love
your neighbour as yourself. Perhaps the crowd listening thought that was
the end of that little debate.
Neighbours near and far
But lawyers haven’t changed much down the centuries, have they?
Lawyers need everything defined, spelt out clearly. He might have decided
not to try and get into a theological debate defining God, so he chose
the next best thing: who is my neighbour? To whom should I be showing
love in order to fulfil the law’s demands and inherit eternal life?
The lawyer started with an awareness of God, and Jesus was about to widen
his awareness of the human neighbour in need.
So the second
reason why we are thinking about the Good Samaritan in relation to harvest
is that we are to be aware of our neighbour. To give God thanks for the
harvest is our first calling as we seek to love God with all of who we
are. But then our love is also to be for those creatures whom God has
made and wishes us to help look after. As we know, Jesus went on to point
out to the lawyer that our neighbour and those who show neighbourliness
are not always the expected ones or those easy to show love towards. We
are so used to the Good Samaritan parable that we often forget what a
surprise this parable was to Jesus’ first hearers. A modern sketch
of this parable was entitled The Parable of the Good Punk Rocker.
we live in a world that grows more and more like a global village. What
I do and the choices I make can have a profound effect on the lives of
people whom I may never live near or meet. We have the means to be aware
of the need of other humans far away – indeed, one of the things
we might suffer from is an overload of news reports of the suffering of
countless people in different parts of the world. This year many peoples’
lives in the UK have been affected by the summer flooding. In a strange
turn of events, flooding has occurred more recently in parts of Africa,
and this has brought us up sharply, making us feel more able to identify
with the suffering of others far away. Neighbours near and far have been
left in need.
stopping to help
The third connection between the parable Jesus told and harvest thanksgiving
lies in the way in which the Good Samaritan responded to the victim and
his needs. The difference between the priest and the temple official and
the way they reacted and the way in which the Samaritan responded isn’t
to do with their religion. The professional religious men may have loved
God, but they couldn’t find it within themselves to stop, even though
they were aware of the man’s suffering. The one who did stop was
first filled with pity – it was human compassion that moved him,
not religious faith. It is good that there are many humanitarian organisations
that seek to respond to human need around the world. Some are religious
like Christian Aid, Cafod or World Vision – but many are apparently
secular, like Save the Children.
these agencies have in common, though, is their approach to helping people
in need around the world. Like the Good Samaritan, their immediate response
is compassion and practicality. The victim lay helpless and the Samaritan
went to him, tended his wounds, using what he had to help as first aid,
and then took him to a place of safety. When disaster strikes that is
the right and first response: medical aid, helping those who cannot help
themselves and moving them to safety. But the next stage is just as significant:
providing resources for the victim to recover and become self-sustaining
is vital. The Samaritan made sure the victim was recovering and then left,
leaving some money and promising ongoing support as necessary. It is the
same with international aid – after the crisis stage, withdrawing
but providing the right support to allow communities to return to being
self-sustaining is all part of the process.
As we give thanks for harvest, we also share what we have with others.
We acknowledge our neighbours and seek to help them become fully human
as we seek to love God with all we have and all we are.
© Rev Paul Smith