Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
This morning, we are invited to consider again what must surely be one of Jesus’ most familiar parables, one which allows us to imagine ourselves in the role of any of the characters. It is a very rich story, with many subtle aspects, and Jesus tells it in response to a question from a teacher of the Jewish law. It seems that the test the lawyer sets before Jesus is an opportunity for Jesus to prove himself, rather than being some sort of trap intended to undermine his authority. The interaction feels mutually respectful.
In reply to Jesus’ probing response to his initial question, the lawyer seems to say something quite innovative. He combines the two great laws of love into one law, saying effectively that you cannot love God without loving your neighbour, and vice versa. Jesus approves of this, but points out that the challenge is to actually do both, and that doing so is the way to fullness of life.
This just leaves the question of who qualifies as neighbour. Those listening to Jesus might have been taught to define their neighbour quite narrowly as one of those within the community of their kinship group, that is, those who were like them. Jesus challenges any such assumption with his parable involving an anonymous man, that is, any person.…