Monday, 20 February 2017

The Good Samaritan Luke 10v 29-37

A woman was going from Birmingham to London on Virgin trains. The train pulled up with half the carriages it should’ve had, so 10 carriages of people piled onto a 5 carriage train. The conductor announced people who had saved seats should be given them. The woman's seat was occupied by a white man who refused to move and turned to his son and said “Don’t worry about it”! The woman was the one who was worried standing from Birmingham to London! An Asian student sitting nearby tapped her on the shoulder and offered her his seat. At first she refused but then accepted his offer. He was a student going from Birmingham to Coventry. The man in front spoke loudly about how lucky he was to have a seat.  Which of these do you think was a neighbour to the woman? Jesus says go and do likewise.

Shirin a volunteer at our  Welcome Project asked me if I thought she would be able to travel to the U.S. With her Muslim name? I'm not sure. Claris a member at the Handsworth Community choir told me that 188 of her sons  colleagues who work for Google were affected by the ban. This ban by Trump affects up to 90,000 people from 7 countries and that doesn’t include dual nationality people. How many people from these countries have been involved in terrorist acts in US? 

But what about Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates who were not included, even though a report from the Cato Institute showed that these three countries were the point of origin for people responsible for 94.1 percent of American deaths due to terrorist attacks in the U.S. Eighteen of the 19 people responsible for the 11 September 2001 attacks also hailed from those three countries. Why were they excluded? 65.3 million displaced people globally. Of those 21.3 million are refugees. 107, 100 were resettled. Most refugees come from Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria. Countries taking in the most refugees are Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia and Jordan. 

How many refugees has American taken in 2016?  84,995. (.026% of its population)  How many did the UK take? 23,000 (.035881% of our population). How many did Lebanon take?

"The personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew.” [Adolf Hitler, “Mein Kampf”, Vol. 1, Chapter 11]

Hitler's view was that the Jewish people as a whole were responsible for the hardships faced by Germans during and after WWI, and that lebensraum, or living space required for the expansion and continuation of a nation, was necessary for the survival of the German people. He decided that the best plan of action would be to eliminate every Jewish citizen, and then expand Germany into Poland and Russia. He twisted his own racism and goals of political achievement into a hatred of one race of people, blaming them for all of Germany's then issues. Then he planned and executed the Holocaust, leaving millions dead after subjecting them to the brutal torture of concentration camps and death camps. Of course, the separation, segregation, and persecution didn't happen overnight. Hitler slowly singled out every Jewish citizen through tactics such as requiring that they wear a yellow Star of David attached to their clothes, referring to the Jewish citizens as enemies of Germany, and moving entire communities into ghettos.

Trump has called Mexican immigrants as well as other immigrants "rapists" and "killers," and plans to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and suggested a database to keep tabs on all Muslim-Americans in the United States. He is restricting 90K plus Muslims entering the United States until authorities can "figure out what's going on." If you read his position on immigration reform, you'll immediately notice the blatant racist content. He stated that if Mexico doesn't want to pay for the wall, he will do something "severe." 

He made derogatory comments about Princess Diana and the Duchess of Cambridge.

“First they came for the socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist, then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me” Martin Niemoller (1892-1984)

This week the UK did not protest against Trumps actions but secured safe passage for British passport holders. 

Fifty years ago the writer and philosopher Hannah Arendt witnessed the end of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the major figures in the organisation of the Holocaust. Covering the trial Arendt coined the phrase "the banality of evil".  What did she really mean?

Her argument was that Eichmann failed to think about the crime he was committing. 

Arendt wondered whether a new way of behaving had arisen with national socialism, one in which humans implemented policy, but no longer reflected on what they were doing.  

Arendt was trying to understand the Nazi genocide – in order to understand a crime against humanity, the destruction of Jews, Gypsies, gay people, communists, the disabled and the ill. It had been an attack not only on those specific groups, but on humanity itself. 

A crime against humanity had become "banal" because it was committed in a daily way, systematically, without being named and opposed. The crime had become accepted, routinised, and implemented without moral revulsion and political indignation and resistance.

What had become banal was the failure to think.  The consequence of non-thinking is genocidal, or can be.

 Eichmanns failure was  to be critical, a failure to take distance from the requirements that law and policy imposed upon him; in other words, she faults him for his obedience, his lack of critical distance, and his failure to think.

Eichmann argued he was acting from obedience. He formulated and executed orders  He invoked "duty". He also acknowledges that once he was charged with the task of carrying out the final solution, he no longer 'was master of his own deeds,' and … he 'was unable to change anything'."

Eichmann believed that he should act in a way that the F├╝hrer would approve.

This Nazi interpretation uncritically supported a criminal legal code and fascist regime.

The story of the Good Samaritan is about not protecting just your own. Humanity is much bigger than white families, black or Asian families, or UK citizens or protecting America. 

The man who was beaten up was powerless. But his presence provoked a reaction, from the religious and from an outsider from another religion.The priest and the Levite were the good guys, regular church attenders, respected in the community.  But the presence of the man beaten up showed a deeper side to them. They were superficial. Their religion was skin deep. Piety.

Worst than that Jesus says they were people who were not a neighbour, they  did not love their neighbour.  

So what about us?  Are we are people according to the words of Jesus who do not "Go and do likewise."  Are we the the ones who pass by on the other side.  Are we are the ones who are unwilling to be changed by the presence of people who challenge us?   Where are we relative to the second greatest commandment of loving our neighbour as ourselves?

The sad part is that both the priest and the Levite "saw the man" and deliberately chose not to help him.  Im guessing we often all pass by on the other side. 

If we don’t love our neighbour then we are like the man left for dead. We are dead and we leave others left for dead.  We must be like the Good Samaritan, love our neighbour, and reflect Jesus' directive to "Go and do as he did."

Lent for Ordinary People 2017

Lent Preparation

This week we begin the period of time known as Lent. The weekly readings for this year are; 
Week one: Matthew 4v1-11 Wilderness and Temptation
Week two: Matthew 17v1-9 Transfiguration
Week three: John 4 v5-42 The Samaritan woman 
Week four: John 9v1-41 Healing 
Week five: John 11v1-45 Resurrection 
Week six: Matthew 21v1-11 Palm Sunday 

Lent is named after the Anglo Saxon word, Lenten meaning the lengthening of days. In the first three centuries of the church a few days were set aside for strict fasting. By the 4th century this preparation time had developed to 40 days, like the 40 years of the Exodus that the people of Israel spent lost in the desert, like the 40 days of fasting of Moses, Elijah and Jesus. 40 days is a long time to go without food and drink. It's really the maximum a body could stand.

Lent has traditionally been seen as a time of personal meditation, a cleansing of the soul and also a time of preparation for those receiving baptism on Easter Sunday. It begins with a time of penitence, of saying sorry , on Ash Wednesday, much like Yom Kippur. 

In the Roman Catholic Church fasting is still practised on Ash Wednesday and on Good Friday. In the Eastern Orthodox Church not eating eggs, meat and fish is still common throughout Lent, which is why painted eggs are given out on Easter Sunday and eggs are eaten in pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.

The colour representing Lent is purple and unbleached fabric and in some churches there are no flowers during Lent and all the crosses are covered.

For the Israelites the Exodus meant moving from a situation of slavery, 
where they had food and shelter into a situation of great risk, not 
knowing where they were going, how they were going to be fed, where 
they were going...into a desert!  Lent discipline is a bit like voluntarily entering a desert or a time of wilderness.

There are spiritual disciplines that can help us. Silence, prayer, 
reading the scriptures, fasting... these times set aside for meditation can be a time of creative breakthrough, a way forward. 

The Christian journey requires that we take risks otherwise we stop 
growing as people of faith. We may move away from being respectable 
and  risks are taken with no quarantee of success otherwise they would 
not require faith, they wouldnt be risks. It is easy to trust God when 
things are going well but when the going gets tough then many of us 
look down and start to sink like Peter, before he walked on water.

Our Muslim friends celebrate Ramadan with a month of disciplined fasting from dawn to dusk. What about us? 
What are we going to do this Lent  to allow us to clear our minds and our lives and to allow the Spirit of God to work something new in us? The number 40 represents a change; we have 40 days to reflect and maybe to enact change, with God's help.

There are books that can help us on that journey. There are organised 
times of prayer and reflection. The choice is ours.

We may choose to go into a desert or we may be driven there like the Israelites. We may already be in that desert, or on the edge of it. It may help us to be with others or to be alone. Whatever you do this Lent, do it consciously.

Servant Christ help us to follow you into that place of quiet retreat, 
knowing that you will be with us, even in the deserts and the times of 
sinking and drowning. Help us to cling to you. Amen.


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When I needed a neighbour