Morning Service 24th January 2021 - Rev. Rod Hill's Reflection

by Alderley Edge Methodist Church  |  Posted at 15:45pm on 25th January 2021

Reflection Sunday 24th January 2020

Theme: ‘We will help people in our communities and beyond’

 

Mark 12. 31  ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself’.

 

Is this one of those ‘fronted adverbials’ that have been so much in debate in the newspapers this week?  Ask your grandchildren, it’s one of the many grammar rules that they will be taught in school (although what practical value learning these rules is, I am still to find out).

 

Whatever it is, the most significant bit of the sentence comes last “Love … as you love yourselves.”  Last week we focussed our thinking on that idea of loving ourselves as created in the image of God, and in passing, I commented on ‘Love your neighbour’.  This week I want to focus for a few moments on the whole idea of ‘Love your neighbour’ which, of course, is nothing really new – it runs through the whole of the Old Testament.  Loving the foreigner in your midst etc. is very much the Old Testament way of thinking.

However, Jesus broadens the concept of neighbour, as I noted last week.

If you’ve ever been on a pilgrimage to the ‘land, we like to call Holy’ (to use a phrase of a former Dean of St. George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem) you will probably have travelled from Jerusalem to Jericho in your air-conditioned coach.  Partly along the road you may have pulled in to the side whilst the guide pointed out to you ‘The Inn’ from the parable of the good Samaritan.  If you’ve been there then your rection may have been like mine – but it’s a parable, there was no actual inn!

However, to focus on the inn is entirely to miss the point of the parable, which was intended to answer the question ‘And who is my neighbour?’

Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10. 25 – 37)

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus uses the example of the Jew and the Samaritan, who would not ordinarily have been friendly towards each other (see the Old Testament for more). However, out of all those who could have helped the Jew, only the Samaritan did.

Jesus tells of a man who was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho and was attacked by robbers on the way. He was badly beaten and left for dead.

The first person to pass the injured man was a priest, who crossed the road and continued walking.

The second person to pass the injured man was a Levite, a priest’s assistant (sort of). He also crossed the road and continued walking without helping the man.

The third person to come by was a Samaritan, a person from Samaria. (Remember, the Samaritans were hated by the Jews.) When the Samaritan saw the man, he took pity on him. He bandaged him and cleaned his wounds. He then put him on the back of his donkey and took him to an innkeeper, whom he paid to look after him.

The parable ends with Jesus giving a commandment to go out and do the same as the Samaritan had done. This teaching of loving one’s enemies is also reflected in Matthew's Gospel.

 

“Go and do likewise” is the thrust of the parable, love everyone (even your enemies).

 

Matthew 25 gives another illustration of the point:

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

45 ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.

I well remember preaching on this passage a few years ago and at the end of it one of the members of the congregation came to me and said “Well, that’s it for me, then!  I’m sure that there have been times when I’ve neglected to help my neighbour.  In fact, I know there have been.  So, I’m doomed.”  So, how to respond?

 

First, lets note that the passage speaks about those who have loved their neighbours and turned that into practical action and says “Come, you who are blessed by my Father and take your inheritance … because ‘  ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  If you have loved your neighbour, it’s OK.

 

Second, lets note that whether or not we inherit the Kingdom of God is not down to law, rules, and regulations, but to grace.  God’s grace in us.  So, let’s not beat ourselves up overmuch about the things that we haven’t done for our neighbour.

 

Alderley Edge Methodist Church is actually not bad at loving our neighbour.  I can cite several illustrations of this as a church.

  • The foodbank collection, now going to one of the most impoverished communities in our District at Wythenshawe
  •  
  • The music concerts that have raised money for a wide variety of charities.

 

  • Allowing our premises to be used for a lunch club.

 

  • And you can probably add more things.

 

  • We do things ecumenically too, as part of Churches Together in Alderley Edge and in our covenant partnership with the church of England

 

But, how much of this is part of the core of who we are as a church?

 

The way in which a church uses its finances is often a good measure of how much it is committed to love of neighbour.  When we set our budget, as we will be doing in a few months’ time, do we start by saying ‘what turnover do we anticipate?’  Then, lets give a tithe of that? Or do we start by asking how much there was left over at the end of the year and giving some of that away?

 

As for individuals, so for church communities, tithing our giving (i.e. giving away 10% of our income) is a good indicator of how well we love our neighbours.

 

If we decide to commit ourselves to following ‘A Methodist Way of Life’ then we are committing to love our neighbour as we love ourselves, and both parts of that matter if we are to build the Kingdom of God here on earth.  We must love ourselves (and each other) as made in the image of God and we must love our neighbour.