Friday, 16 August 2019

Good Samaritan Luke 10


Luke is a gospel that emphasizes God's love for the poor, the disadvantaged, minorities, outcasts, sinners and lepers. So today the homeless, the refugees, the desperately poor would fit into this category. Jesus has entered Samaritan territory we are told in Luke 9v52 and so we get the story of The “Good” Samaritan. The "going down" expresses movement from a high place to a low place, the low place being Jericho. The road drops 3,300 feet in 17 miles and was notorious for its hazards!

The priest does not stop because of a fear of the robbers, or fear of defilement from a corpse.
A Levite came up to him, quite close, and passed on.
A Samaritan, who was travelling when he saw him he took pity on him attended to his wounds. Oil was used on wounds as a liniment, while wine (alcohol) was used as an antiseptic.
Then he put the man on his own donkey took the man to the inn, staying the night with him to care for him and paid for his ongoing care the next day. As a neighbour, the Samaritan did everything he could The next day he gave money to the innkeeper to look after him.
When I return (like Jesus will) I will reimburse you any extra. 
Who seems to you of the three to have become neighbourly to the one who fell into the robbers?
Go and do likewise.  

The lawyer when asked by Jesus recognizes that the Samaritan has acted properly (but he can’t bring himself to say the word Samaritan.) The lawyer must see behind the Law, laws to love. Even non-Jews who demonstrate this kind of love can enter the kingdom. Salvation?

The story invites the question can a Samaritan be good? Its like today “Can a Muslim be good? Can a migrant be good?

Jesus is approached by a legal expert in Biblical law who asks what a person must do to gain eternal life. Jesus asks the lawyer/theologian what he thinks the scriptures say. The theologian gives the answer, "love God, love your neighbor." Jesus replies "Indeed, do this and you will live." Yet, here lies the problem, doing God's law is no easy matter, and it does help if our neighbour belongs to a group of people we like/our group. So, the theologian asks Jesus "who is my neighbour?" Jesus doesn't actually answer the theologian's question (my neighbour is even my enemy), rather he illustrates in a parable what it means to love "your neighbour as yourself".
In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus confronts the expert in the law with the simple fact that eternal life is not secured by righteousness, by doing good. 
The point we learn, is not who deserves to be cared for but rather the demand to become a person who treats everyone encountered - however frightening, alien, naked or defenceless - with compassion. We must take the same risks with our life and possessions that the Samaritan did.

Religious Jews (the legalists) of the day believed that by obedience to the law they were able to perfect their standing before God and thus guarantee their place in the kingdom. This religious Jew did not need a legal definition for "neighbour", he needed to act in a neighbourly way (with mercy) to inherit eternal life. The problem was he had never loved at the Samaritan and loved him. Therefore, he stood under the condemnation of God and was in dire need of divine mercy. Jesus deliberately shocks the lawyer by forcing him to consider the possibility that a foreigner might know more about the love of God than a devout Jew blinded by preoccupation with petty rules.
Elsewhere in the gospels Jesus states this summary of the law, here it comes from a Jewish expert on the law and Jesus agrees with it. The law is idealistic and beyond even the most faithful person of God. 

Jesus illustrates what it means to love "your neighbour as yourself", what it means to be neighbourly. 

Jesus' extension of the obligation to love even our enemies gives it new, radical perspective.  Our Christian faith calls us to the love of the Samaritan. 

Luke emphasizes that Christ came for all: all sectors of society, all peoples, and both sexes. Samaritans, despised by Jews, are welcome in the Kingdom. The lawyer has learnt that his love should be for everyone; if it is, he has eternal life.

God can be experienced in barren, inhospitable places or circumstances. God can speak in any situation.

We need to rediscover the Samaritans theology of kindness. This is wisdom to plan for the stranger. The theology of kindness creates a welcome environment , practical hospitality  and signs we care. Gospel kindness feeds us physically or spiritually. True welcoming is more interested in the needs of the stranger.  It’s entertaining angels unawares.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Matthew 5v43-45 Brexit and Trump and the gospel

By another route-Matthew 5v43-45 There are people who believe that both the election of Trump and Brexit are Gods will. They believe that Britain is Ephraim in the Old Testament. Or that the British are modern-day Israelites, Gods chosen people, because we are descended from Assyrians (modern day Germany). Only two nations in history can fit God’s promises to these two tribes: the British Empire and the United States. But Ephraim will be taken into captivity by the EU. And Brexit will usher in the End Time. Its complete rubbish in my opinion not just fake news but fake theology but google it and you’ll see it perpetuated. Similarly a great many evangelicals believe that the feet of the image in Nebuchadnezzars dream, his ten toes are the Roman Empire (Dan 2:41)’.The European Union is an extension of the Old Roman Empire. And the Anti-Christ is the EU! Trouble is there are actually 27 toes!, This is the sort of theology coming out of white evngelicals in North America. It’s been around for years and it is based on someone’s ideas not the Bible, but their interpretation. On the morning after the Brexit vote under the title of "God has spoken", Peter Horrobin wrote the result was a "massive answer to prayer" and said: "God has acted to set the UK free from the external spiritual control of the European Union. The EU has an evil spiritual power. There has been much goodwill towards Britain as the nation which stood firm against Nazi Germany and helped to liberate Western European countries in 1944-45, but there is a widespread sense that Britain has not yet come to terms with no longer being a world power, with an empire, and is still trying to behave like a colonial power, telling other nations what is best for them. And we have now lost the plot. In Proverbs we read “The fool whose way seems right to him, in contrast to wise people, who listen to advice” (Proverbs 12:15). Jesus was interested in what people were saying about him. “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13), because this helped to define for them his role and mission. Jesus’ said, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). “The Lord has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled). … The arrogance of humankind will be brought low and human pride humbled” (Isaiah 2:12,17). A few hours after the announcement that the UK had voted to leave the European Union, a Rabbi, an international Bible Codes expert, turned to the Hebrew text of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible to find a reference to the event. on June 24, 2016, he published a 5-minute video about Brexit in Bible Codes. He believes that part of the Hebrew Bible ,Torah is numerically coded and can be used to predict the future. Some people we never landed on the moon! From Pharaoh to Nebuchadnezzar to Caesar, all had more or less supreme power in their kingdoms. Even the king of Israel had much more power than any leader in a modern democracy, but the king of Israel was supposed to rule with justice according to the Law as God’s representative. In fact, all kings are supposed to rule with justice and will be judged accordingly (Psalm 82). However, autocratic dictators are a problem if they refuse to be governed by the law of God and become a law unto themselves. Christians in modern democracies have tools to oppose out-of-control rulers that ancient Christians probably never imagined—voting, freedom of expression, the right to assemble, and we must use these tools. Of course, a fascist regime is repressive, so individual rights are usually suppressed. The key is to use these rights while they are still available to prevent fascism from coming to full power. The exaltation of the national over individual rights is never good. America First! There has to be is a balance. At times, people are called to go to war to protect the nation when many of them would rather not. At times, a governmental body can confiscate private property for the public good. There must be a balance, and Western democracies have been able to maintain that balance through a system of “checks and balances” between the government and the people and within the government so that no single individual gains too much power. Exalting our own nation above all other nations is also never good. There is nothing wrong with a nation looking out for its own interests, but when this happens to the detriment of other nations, it runs contrary to Scripture. Philippians 2:3–4 give us the ideal: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” What is said here of the individual would also apply to nations. A leader can confuse his or her own personal good with that of the nation and its people. To create any distinction between people and the exaltation of one people above another has no biblical basis. First, biologically speaking, there is only one race—the human race with the scientific classification Homo sapiens. The differences like skin colour or the shape of the eye are simply variations within the species. Other distinctions such as food, music, and style of dress are the result of cultural forces. Ultimately, there is no real difference between people—all are made in the image of God. For this reason, a Christian should have no part in nationalist organizations. Never ever. A new form of dangerous political leadership is emerging in different parts of the world. Although this is not the first, and likely not the last time, the threat today is real. It is an ideology characterized by fundamentalist, militant, nationalistic, and racist policies, and it threatens people who are different, be it the poor, the oppressed, the homeless, the marginalised, the disenfranchised—people for whom God has a special concern. As members of the global Christian community, our call is very different. Our call is to a radical biblical faithfulness amid this new popularism. We are called to lives of peace, justice, and hope as we follow Jesus Christ. However many followers of Jesus, have contributed to this new popularism including some high profile evangelical leaders who have hailed Trump as a prophet and Brexit as Gods will. Its not surprising that many young people, are abandoning the churches altogether. The challenge to the church at these difficult times is to ensure: That we show mercy and just treatment to immigrants, refugees, strangers, and racial and religious minorities; That we reject all sorts of objectification of women and commercialization of sex; That we are responsible for the care of God’s creation, including taking seriously the reality and dangers of climate change; That we are committed to world peace in the face of the war industry, military rhetoric and action; That we will protect the poor, marginalized, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups, including children and young people. Both misogyny and street brawls are part of this new popularism as it was in the 30s and 40s. In the 1930s the newspapers were for hostile to people like Moseley, Mussolini and Hitler. Today however this is not the case. Christians are sometimes part of the problem. They are also creating a “religious right” agenda with their agendas. The political situation we are in creates enemies and scapegoats (e.g., how the Nazis depicted the Jews). The cause of the problem is the Irish, the Jews, migration, the Muslims, the unemployed, benefit fraud etc Moses’ law gave the nation of Israel a guideline for deciding on justice: ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’ (Lev 24:20). The penalty for the crime was equal to the crime. But is what Moses’ wrote applicable to us as Christians? Jesus, answer in Matthew 5 indicates not. Our calling demands much more from us. ‘Do not resist an evil person.’ Jesus says to his disciples. ‘Jesus is not prohibiting the use of force by governments, police, or soldiers when combating evil. Jesus here is focusing on our personal behaviour . Romans 13:1-5 makes it clear that the state is given authority by God to implement justice. But Jesus is saying that we are not to take the law into our own hands. The implementation of justice belongs to the courts and to God on Judgment Day, but not to us. The word ‘resist’ here could also be translated as ‘avenge’ or ‘retaliate’. Jesus means that, when someone personally wrongs us, we must not respond with hatred, bitterness, revenge or retaliation. This is radically different to the Old Testament Law and deeply challenging. ‘If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.’ A slap to the cheek was a great insult in a culture of honour, as it still is today. But if someone insults you, don’t slap or insult them back. Don’t respond in the same spirit. Rather offer them your other cheek.’ In this way love overcomes evil. It is not an act of cowardice, but of strength. ‘And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.’ When someone falsely accuses you, give them your coat if they need it. Love overcomes evil. ‘If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.’ In those days, a Roman soldier had the right to exploitatively make any person carry his baggage for a mile. But Jesus called them to offer to carry their baggage another mile if they need our help. Again, love overcomes evil. ‘Give to the one who asks you.’ No one likes to be accosted by people begging and the maxim is not to give money. A common response is to ignore them. But Jesus urges us to give. Love even a beggar. In each case, good overcomes evil (Rom 12:21) Jesus does not give us laws, but illustrations of the principle of love that overcomes evil. There may be times when we have to exercise self-defence (see Luke 12:11, 22:36-38), or confront or even press charges against someone (see Gal 2:11-14), or protest against being unjustly treated (see John 18:22-23), or to say no to a demand. The point is that we act in genuine love toward those who hurt us, accuse us, exploit us. They may deal with us in an aggressive, even hateful manner, but we respond in the opposite spirit. This is not weakness. It is showing you are answering to a higher call on your life. Martin Luther King had a great deal to say about conquering people with love and of course he paid the ultimate sacrifice. I wonder what he would have to say to us today in the time of Trump and Brexit? Dark days indeed and we must be very careful of our words and actions or we may unleash even darker times. May God give us all wisdom. Amen.



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