This service was streamed live from the Ocean Grove church via Zoom on July 10th at 10:30am
Even though the service is streamed live, those who are unable to participate online may use this material at any time for their private devotions. If ‘two or three’ are gathered with you, you may choose a ‘leader’ in order to use the responsive prayers and readings as you would in church.
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Grace and peace from God our creator and the Lord Jesus Christ.
CALL TO WORSHIP
L: God of all creation, Be with each one of us,
R: as growth, creativity and healing, as light and wisdom.
L: Spirit of the living God, live within our community,
R: giving courage to dispel fear and resolve conflict,
giving fire to inflame with love.
L: Spirit of Peace, dwell with us
R: so that we may know your presence in silences and stillness and know your vision for your people.
PRAYER OF AWARENESS
God of the important and the common place, you reach into our lives through story. Open our hearts to be attentive:that seeing, we may perceive, and hearing, we may understand, and understanding, we may act. Amen
JOURNEY INTO SILENCE
Meditation – “The Samaritan” by Bruce Prewer
As I was coming home through life, some muggers hit me hard, they stripped me of the things most dear and left me by the road. A news crew found me bloodied, the cameras zoomed in near; “That’s great TV,” the producer said, and left me lying there.
A Senator saw the camera crew and stared at me in the ditch: “Of course we’d like to help” he said, “but the budget will not stretch.”
A young preacher came down that way and knelt to succour me. The muggers moved in mercilessly and hanged him on a tree.
Let us now take some time to sit in comfort, to breathe deeply, to relax in the presence of God
(AT LEAST 30 SECONDS OF SILENCE)
L: Look upon us, loving Saviour, sift our thoughts and assess our feelings. Deal firmly with those things that have inhibited our love and diverted our energies.
L: Flood your relentless Spirit through our whole being, sweeping away guilt and its lethargy, and by the saving grace of Christ Jesus, heal the hidden springs of our personality.
R: Thank you, Holy Friend, for answering our prayers before we get around to asking them, and for doing much more than we ask or think.
L: Through your Son and our brother;
L: In Christ Jesus we are a radically renewed community.
R: Thanks be to God!
L: Old things are done away with, all things become new.
L: We are agents of grace and reconciliation.
R: Thanks be to God!
L: With every step or stumble, Christ will be with us.
R: Thanks be to God!
L: And so I declare to you, the door to life has been opened to us.
R: Thanks be to God!
FROM THE GOSPELS: Luke 10: 25-37
25 An expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 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 neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
29 But wanting to vindicate himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and took off, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came upon him, and when he saw him he was moved with compassion. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, treating them with oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 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.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS “Parable People?”
Thanks to Bruce Prewer for the essence of this sermon
One of the ‘cool” things about Jesus’ parables is that we recognise the characters, even after 2 millennia since he told these stories. Often we recognise ourselves. In story form, Jesus reveals what is going on both around us and in our own hearts. We find that we, too, are the parable people.
That’s how it is with the parable we know as “The Good Samaritan.” It is about caring for one another in this world. Real people. Real events. It asks us whether we pass the caring test or fail it.
Today I will, attempt to help you recognise yourself and others in the story by dealing (very simply) with three types of attitudes and actions that occur in the parable: (1)the robbers, (2)the priest and Levite, and (3) the Samaritan..
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and he fell among thieves.”
This robber mentality is applied toward money and possessions, of coure, but also toward time, abilities and jobs. In fact, this attitude underlines much of that which is corrupt in our society. “Yours is mine if I can get it.”
Three times my home has been broken into by thieves. Once in Melbourne and once in my first placement in Maryborough, once in Belmont. What hurt most was not the loss of a few possessions, not even the loss of family heirlooms, which could not have been worth much to the robbers. What hurt most was the sense of violation, and the loss of the feeling of security in one’s own home. If we have to, we can do without many of our possessions. The loss of security is more disquieting.
Robbery is widespread. “A man was going down from Sydney to Melbourne and he fell among thieves.”Home robbery is only one small segment of the large circle of robbery affecting our community. Unfortunately, much of this wider robbery is actually both legal and respectable. Your job is mine if I can get it. Your investment is mine if I can plunder it. Your abilities are mine if I can exploit them to my advantage. Your company is mine if I can take it over. Your time is mine if I can get a hold on you. Your health is mine if I can make you a slave to the inducement of promotion in my firm. The well being of your grandchildren and great grandchildren are mine as long as I can profit now from their future.
The international scene is no different. What holds for the affluent and powerful within our nation also holds for wealthy and powerful among nations. The idea of economic “level playing fields” is music in the ears of the strong and the ruthless. The strong ruthlessly suck dry the resources of the weak.No wonder there is bitterness and anger. No surprise the fabric of society is cracking. While many of those who break into our houses, or hold up service stations, or rob banks, get caught and sentenced to gaol, they see the big players in business and politics not only go avoid the courts but receive applause and massive life pensions. Little nations who get caught in similar ‘daylight robbery’ get condemned in international courts. Powerful nations thumb their noses at such councils or courts.
The distasteful truth is that robbery without arms has become a way of life. No wonder that those who cannot get in on the main act, who cannot get a key role on the big stage, the poor and the unemployed, increasingly turn to robbery under arms. The reasons for the wide support for terrorism in many lowly countries is not hard to find.
“Yours is mine if I can get it” is a code which is now rampant. As a society we have substituted greed for ideals, and legality for morality, and are paying a heavy price for it. As a world we are now paying a costly price for it. We may yet pay a greater price.
“A man was going down from New York to Damascus to Sydney and he fell among thieves.”
THE PRIEST AND LEVITE
“Now by chance. a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.”
The priest and Levite were cautious; they saw the man who had been bashed, but would not risk stopping and helping. What if the robbers were still nearby? What if the man was already dead. If so we would be made ritually unclean and unable to do our job. There is no law saying they must help. Why take the risk? Better to be prudent.
This attitude, protecting what we have, is inflamed by the prevalence of robbers at every level of life. Ours is our own and we intend to keep it. As muggings increase, and even the frail and elderly are bashed and robbed, we call for greater police presence, and install video cameras. Ours is our own and we intend to keep it, even when it costs us. When terrorism happens, as a nation we increase security measures at high national cost.
This way of life is also rampant in our society these days. Caring for the neighbour is relegated to the pretty ideas file. People don’t want to get involved. They will neither risk losing time, effort, and certainly not money.
As citizens we are likely protest if a hostel is planned in our neighbourhood for Down’s Syndrome people. Our comfortable neighbourhood is ours and we intend keep it. If taxes increase to enable the government to minister more effectively among the poor and disadvantaged, we then raise political mayhem. Our present affluence is ours and we intend to keep it. We go to great lengths to stop desperate refugees coming to our country and settling. Our country is ours, just as it is right now, and we intend to keep it. Of course, our Government reflects this position, too. Our Prime Minister has said that Climate Change is a serious challenge, but we won’t do anything about it if it means sacrificing our trade advantage or reducing our economic growth. We are a lucky country and we intend to keep it that way. And how often, when provided with a mission opportunity has the church retreated: we don’t have time, or the numbers, or we need the money to meet our already overstretched budget, or we’re too old, or we must care for our property. Ours is ours and we intend to keep it.
Like the priest and Levite we are often cautious and prudent, which is simply a euphemism for selfish.
Of course we may sometimes permit ourselves to get sentimental about those unfortunates who “fall among thieves” on their journey through life. Current affairs programs specialise in making us shed a few tears for a few of the disadvantaged who are seen to be such “nice, respectable folk.” Perhaps we have our pet charities. We may make a few donations that don’t really cost us much; being especially generous when it is income tax deductible gifts.
But the bulk of needy people we either ignore, or label it their own fault, or say the responsibility belongs elsewhere with the government, or nations bigger than ours, or with the UN. We do not want to get involved if there is the slightest chance it will cost us something.
I suspect that for most people, who are basically good, the temptation to be like the Priest and Levite is far greater than the temptation to be like the robbers. The priest and the Levite are very much with us. I have both of them tucked away inside me. They are rarely allowed to make public appearances, but they offer me plentiful advice. Very talkative and plausible characters they are. And exceedingly respectable!
I am not alone in this, am I? Mine is my own and I intend to keep it.
THE GOOD SAMARITAN
“But a Samaritan who was making the journey came upon him, and when he saw him he had pity. He went to him, bathed his wounds with oil and wine and bandaged him. The he lifted him on his own ass and brought him to an inn, and looked after him there.
The Samaritan, despised by righteous Jews, is the unlikely saviour in this parable. His attitude is: “Mine is yours if you need it.”
He is the good guy. This detested, mongrel-blooded Samaritan had an approach to life which is risky but wonderful. He suffered the same risk of ritual defilement by a dead body. He knew he could be set upon by the same robbers if he tarried on the road, so there was the risk he could end up like the victim. Or the delay might have upset his whole travelling itinerary, or made him miss an important business deal. This Samaritan could have counted the cost and worried about his budget, his health, or his life.
Instead he gave the most practical help and footed the bill. I like that bit where he says to the inn keeper, “Whatever else he costs, I’ll pay you on my return journey.” That was risky. Unpretentiously he accepts responsibility for a wounded stranger to whom he willingly become a good neighbour. Mine is yours if you need it.
Here I must insert two provisos. I do so for the few among you who have over-active consciences. Most of us don’t have that problem, but a few do in every church. To the super-sensitive souls here present I say?
First proviso: There is a difference between needs and wants. Lots of people have endless wants, especially those who are already affluent. They always want more. Needs are more urgent, more obvious.
As Christians we are not called to be puppets of other people’s wants. There will always be selfish folk who will take every opportunity to make demands on our time, our money and our energy. In truth such people have never grown up. They will not accept responsibility for their own lives. What is more, they never will as long as they can find kindly ‘suckers’ to manipulate and use up. There are enough genuine neighbours in need, without wasting our precious energies on manipulators.
Second proviso: No one among us can meet all the sincerely genuine needs of every neighbour in this world. The needy neighbours are too many. We cannot be a good neighbour to them all. Nor can we allow ourselves the dubious indulgence of getting depressed about the apparent inadequacy of the few things we can do.
We need to make a sincere estimate of our resources, both personal and financial, and decide how best they can be used in then ongoing ministry of Christ. We can only do this by limiting ourselves. To say no as well as yes, is a sign of Christian maturity. This applies to both individuals and churches. We should never try to do it all. Tough decisions have to be made, just as Jesus had to make the tough decisions.
But….. yes a big BUT! Having made the provisos, I challenge you not to use them as an excuse. Prudence when confronted by human need was never a characteristic of Jesus, nor does it look good when worn by his followers. “Mine is yours if you need it” remains the challenge for all who follow Jesus. To whom can we and should we be a good neighbour? How willing are we? This Good Samaritan parable lies close to the heart of all that Jesus believed and practised.
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH
L: In response to the word reflected on, let us share together an affirmation of faith. Beckoning Christ, you call us out of our comfortable ghetto of ‘us’ and ‘them’ to risk discipleship without walls.
R: You call us into a world-wide fellowship where God is worshipped above all other.
L: You call us into a world-wide fellowship where prayer is offered day and night.
R: You call us into a world-wide fellowship where we can share what we are with others who love you.
L: You call us into a world-wide fellowship where each person has something to give to the whole.
R: You call us into a world-wide fellowship where compassion and respect shape missionary endeavour.
L: Keep on beckoning us out of our safe havens into your rich fellowship of challenge and reconciliation, faith and hope.
Hidden yet ever-present God, always loving, never tiring, we seek your aid. You see the unrelieved suffering of innumerable souls, and hear the raw weeping of countless of your children. O let your breath be upon all you see, your hands upon all disease, your arms around all distress, and your kiss on all tormented minds. Hidden yet ever-present God, do for us all that we cannot do for ourselves, and make us bold to do what we can do. For the healing of your world and the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray, “Our Father…”
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us in the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.
WORD OF MISSION
R: God has called a pilgrim people.
L: From all walks and ways of life:
R: God has called a pilgrim people.
L: Black and white, male and female
R: We are signs of our world’s division
L: Black and white, male and female
R: We are signs of God’s new creation joined together by the love of Christ.
L: So let us not journey alone with God.
R: Let us not journey only with our friends. Let us be a place and a people of welcome, signs of God’s all embracing love.
Ahead of you is the expanse of a new week where as yet no one has yet trodden with either anxious or arrogant feet.
Take your lead from Jesus; tread softly but boldly,
knowing that he is at your side with grace, mercy and peace.
Your God is abundantly resourceful!
The blessing of God:
Loving Parent, Brother and Sister,
Creator, Saviour and Helper,
will be with you now and always.