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Sunday Service, 11th October 2020

Welcome

Good morning and a very warm welcome to our Zoom service from Wardie Parish Church.

My name is Graeme Trotter and it’s my privilege to be leading the service today. We continue our series of services on some of the parables with the story of the Good Samaritan.

If you’ve read your weekly newsletter, you will have seen that next week you can be present here for the service. Numbers are limited, but please don’t hesitate to book your place.

You will also have read the sad news of Rosemary Philip’s death. Rosemary was a true stalwart of Wardie Church, involved in so many areas of church life and latterly running the Traidcraft stall. We will miss her and her contributions greatly. Details of the funeral arrangements will be forwarded to you.

On a happier note, it was our locum Bob Gemmell’s 80th birthday yesterday. A true good Samaritan, we thank you, Bob, for helping to keep us going over the summer with your weekly services and we look forward to seeing you soon.

Call to Worship

From Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2: 1–2.

‘If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.’

Hymn 513 – Courage, brother! do not stumble. Listen here.     

Opening Prayer

Loving God, although apart from one another, we come together to worship you this morning. You bring us all under your comfort and care in a bond of unity and support and friendship.

We ask you to bless us as we put aside the trials of daily life and find renewal and reassurance in your presence.

At this difficult time, we can sometimes find it hard to make space for you in our lives. Give us the strength we need, knowing that you are beside us whatever challenges we might be facing. If we have strayed from your path, help us to pick ourselves up and keep you firmly in our sights.

We pray that you will show us the way forward through the freedom which you offer and that we will work hard to keep the doors open which give us the chance to make the right choices, at the right times.

Amen

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen.

The Good Samaritan

Talk for younger people

I’ve been very lucky this year as I have two lovely granddaughters, aged just over one and about to be one. The older one, Florence, was sitting in her highchair eating her lunch when she dropped something on the floor. I got a cloth to wipe the floor, and when I had finished, Florence demanded the cloth and to get down from her highchair. She crawled to the spot I had just wiped and proceeded to copy me and wipe the floor herself. She was very pleased with herself and so was I because I thought she could now start to clean the kitchen floor and maybe do some other useful cleaning jobs.

And then I thought about my own daughter, Florence’s mother, and remembered that when she was a girl, she wasn’t too good at cleaning jobs or tidying her bedroom or any chores, especially helping to clear the table.

So, I wondered when baby Florence would stop wanting to copy me and be helpful and decide that cleaning and other household chores were not for her.

Why is it that, for whatever reason, most of us begin to find certain jobs not to our liking and we will do anything to avoid having to do them?

Are we lazy or don’t we like getting our hands dirty? Or do we feel that someone else should be doing the job, and not us, and we’ve always got something better to do?

I think it’s probably a bit of all of those, but we do find excuses and we decide that there are certain tasks we will do and there are others we won’t do.

However, I do think that at this time when we are all stuck in our own houses more than usual, and we all have to get on, it’s a good time to maybe be having a go at some of those jobs we don’t like. Perhaps we should look and see what mum and dad and other people have to do and offer to help them, or, if we can, offer to do the job for them.

So, here’s a challenge for the coming week. Select a task in the house which you’ve never done and offer to do it. The first time, you may need to be shown what to do, but that’s no excuse. Find out how to do it, and then make it your own job. Do you know what? Not only will the other person feel better, but so will you!

Reading: Luke 10: 25–37 (NRSV)

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 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 neighbour as yourself.’

And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’

Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 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.” Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Reflection by Graeme Trotter

One of my favourite fictional characters is a Turkish holy man, Nasrudin Hodja. My grandfather introduced me to him was I was young and I’ve always enjoyed the stories and fables surrounding him. Nasrudin can be very clever but also appears to miss the point on occasion, but we learn a lot from him.

It had been raining hard and two holy men were walking from one town to another, when they met a young girl unable to cross the flooded road. Without hesitation, one of the monks picked her up, carried her through the water, set her down on the far side, and proceeded with the journey.

About a mile further along the road, the other monk halted and confronted his brother telling him that he was very upset by his actions; pointing out that monks were supposed to have nothing to do with women; not think about them, talk to them or touch them.

The thoughtful monk smiled, ’I put the girl down when we had crossed the flood; you have been carrying her ever since.’

The monk who rescued the girl responded to her plight and did the right thing at the right time; once the girl was safe, his task was complete. He moved on to get on with the business of the day; there was never any doubt or hesitation about the right action … his mind wasn’t clouded by rights and wrongs and regulations, he did what was right, to help someone in distress.

Introduction to Luke and the story

The parable of The Good Samaritan is about helping someone in distress. It is so well known, and not just by Christians, and at this present time we know that we are surrounded by so-called ‘Good Samaritans’. Luke is the only writer to tell this story, and in response to being asked by a lawyer, or as Jamie Stuart says in the Glasgow Bible ‘an expert lawyer’, ‘Who is my neighbour?’, Jesus tells us about the Samaritan. Luke is a great storyteller, and in this account he brings the message alive with real people in a real situation. Luke was a physician and a message he wants to convey is that Jesus’ mission is about making us whole; about the health of the whole person. Luke also writes about Jesus healing a crippled woman and curing a man of dropsy, or terrible swelling, and this latter on a Sunday, in front of the Pharisees who made no attempt to stop him. It’s worth pointing out that Luke always makes it clear that Jesus heals both men and women, and stories about men are always balanced by stories about women. In fact, to use modern jargon, Jesus was already preaching a balanced approach to life, long before the wellness gurus of today.

Jesus is concerned about all four men in this story, and they would be men at that time. Of course, the poor man who has been attacked, but also about the Jewish holy men, the priest and Levite, and the Samaritan. All four men would have had good reason to be travelling this road, but the Samaritan’s purpose must have been more particular than the others, as he was really in fairly alien territory and far from his normal ‘patch’, so to speak, Samaria being a good way north of the Jerusalem–Jericho road, probably often travelled by the priest and Levite.

But it is the Samaritan who stops to help the injured man. No mobile phones to excuse his lateness for his appointment. Not only that but, as we know, he personally looks after the man overnight and does not stop there; he will check up on him on his return journey and pay for all the care. No matter the possible disruption to his plans or the cost; he will see this commitment through to the end. Here is a man who demonstrates everything Jesus would have us be and clearly answers the lawyer’s question.

Unlike the priest and Levite, the Samaritan is not bound by his position, conventions or scruples. I guess that his business may have been more urgent than that of the so-called ‘holy men’, and yet he could put it aside and respond to what was clearly required of him. He is referred to as the ‘Samaritan’, not because of his job or position but to make it clear where he came from and also because, as far as we know, Jews looked down on Samaritans. But this Samaritan stops to help the invalid, most likely a Jew, whereas the holy men pass by.

Jesus wants us to fulfil our potential, to be who we truly are, not what we think people expect of us or how we have been conditioned to behave. Only by having that freedom and peace of mind can we attain an inner and outer balance.

Jesus wants us to open our hearts and minds to follow him; not to close ourselves through prejudice, jealousy, being judgemental and regarding ourselves as any way special or different. Our sister is lying in distress on the ground; there is no barrier between us and her; our barriers are human constructs and very often illusions about our wellbeing. Truly open and healthy lives are Jesus’ wish for us and we connect with them by following his teaching and example.

As the German monk and writer Anselm Grun puts it, ‘When we are capable of seeing what is, of looking up in order to look around freely, then we are really human … Jesus is the therapist whose methods were as modern in his day as they are today in achieving the art of healthy living.’

At this time of extreme crisis, Jesus teaches us to tend to our mental as well as our physical well-being. Yesterday, the Queen’s Birthday Honours recognised many good Samaritans, ordinary people who were prepared to alter the course of their lives or to dig deeper and respond to the demands made of them. Yes, there are well-known names in there, but mostly people we’ve never heard of and are unlikely to hear of again. These people all made a difference to others to alleviate physical suffering, but also to mitigate the psychological blows which accompany physical distress and the loneliness which has blighted many lives.

When they’re asked about their award, most are truly delighted and humbled. With good works comes a good feeling; the open mind breeds positivity; the closed, narrow mind breeds negativity. Jesus’ Samaritan is an open-minded individual who is not burdened by prejudice, position and egotism.

How many of the current world leaders would you honour? How many are truly good Samaritans? Do they put aside personal goals, ambition and their own agenda to ‘look around and respond freely’, in the true sense of the word? Are we seeing any true statesmen or women appear on the world stage? In this day and age, we have come to distrust big promises and gestures; it is indeed the small, sometimes almost insignificant, that matter to us, and which, I’m glad to say, are being rightly honoured.

The kind monk who carried the girl across the flood will never be honoured for his tiny action but his mind will always be full, open and alert to the will of God and to the reality of the world. Sadly, what we witness today, all too often, are big statements accompanied by a narrow mind and small heart, rather than small gestures accompanied by an open mind and big heart.

It won’t surprise you that I want to end with a short poem. The American poet Emily Dickinson is one the writers I most admire. I hope you see why, in this short verse which I think sums up the importance of the small but oh so important gesture. I’ll read it twice.

‘They might not need me, but they might
I’ll let my head be just in sight
A smile as small as mine might be
Precisely their necessity’.

Amen

Prayers of intercession by Mo Brand

Dear Lord our God,
we are thankful that you are constantly at work in our lives.

You are …

a help in times of difficulty
a strength in times of weakness
a guide when we feel lost and alone.

We know that through Jesus, you have the power …

to transform lives
to mend broken relationships
to bring strength to the weary
and hope to the broken hearted.

So we bring our worries and our burdens and our hopes and fears before you knowing that you bring hope to the world.

Today we pray for world leaders, that they may always seek the peace and security of our world:

We pray for countries laid waste by war and conflict and dictatorship, that they may find peace and the strength to rebuild.
We pray for all the organisations working across the world to ensure basic needs are met.
We give thanks that the United Nations World Food Programme has been recognised, and for the work it does.

10th October is marked as both World Mental Health Day and World Homeless Day and so this week we also pray:
That those struggling with mental health find the strength to get through each day and the opportunity to reflect on how far they’ve come, that those that need to can find the power to ask for help and that we mind our minds and look out for those around us.

We ask that all those affected by homelessness have shelter, security and hope, that there is opportunity for hot meals and human contact. We remember that in our positions of privilege we can do so much to make a difference.

Lord, we pray for your church here at Wardie, we give thanks that we can begin to offer more ways for people to connect with the service and we ask for strength and guidance for those making decisions.

We pray especially for the family and friends of Rosemary Philip who sadly died this week. We ask that you carry them and all those who are grieving in their sadness and loss and bring them peace and comfort.

We pray for ourselves that especially in this time where we can feel more disconnected from each other that we draw close to you and seek ways to be your eyes, ears and hands in the world and share you with our neighbours near and far.

And so, as we pray, we remember that you are indeed

a help in times of difficulty
a strength in times of weakness
a guide when we feel lost and alone.

Thanks be to you.

Amen