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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Ordinary Sunday 15, Year C
South Sydney Uniting Church
July 10, 2016

Psalm 82; Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37

‘Pin the tale on the donkey?’

Margaret has been encouraging us to paint small pictures and to use words to make pictures. Choosing a word we like or find interesting, then trying different ways to paint that word (using different colours and shapes, lines and marks). So I’ve been thinking about words – how they can be like images, and how they inspire imagination.

There are so many words in the Bible. Sometimes it helps to choose a word and then to imagine what God is saying or showing in that one word. It can even be a fun way to read or to hear a story.

The story Jesus tells today is one we’ve probably heard before. It’s usually called The Good Samaritan. The version we’ve heard today is called The Good Neighbour. And those words are well chosen. Jesus is teaching us to be good neighbours. To be kind to everyone – even those we might think of as strangers or enemies. So we could paint the word “neighbour” and use strong lines and bright colours to show how good it is to be a neighbour – how good it is to care for the whole neighbourhood.

What if we take another word, and think about the story with the help of that word? How about the word “priest”? There is a priest in the story who walks right past the wounded man lying in the road. We might wonder why a priest would do this. Aren’t priests supposed to be kind? This is a very interesting part of the story. Sometimes a priest, a pastor, minister or anybody who tries to be holy, is so worried about being good that being kind to a stranger, even an injured person, seems less important. The priest doesn’t want to be late for prayers. He doesn’t want to get dirty or have to explain how he got dirt or blood on his special clothes. Jesus is saying it’s much more important to be kind than to be keeping all the rules or leading prayers with clean clothes.

What do you think about that? Do you think the priest might be scared to stop and help the stranger? Why?

Let’s take another word – the word “donkey”. If Jesus tells a tale, what happens if we pin the tale on the “donkey”? The good neighbour is traveling with a donkey. When he stops to help, he lifts the injured person onto his donkey so that the donkey carries the injured person safely to the inn. The good neighbour and the donkey work together. The goodness of the donkey is something Jesus wants us to see.

Have you ever thought about that? We can learn to be good neighbours alongside animals like donkeys – dogs, birds, cats, rabbits, horses … snakes, fish, turtles, crocodiles … These tales Jesus tells are supposed to be surprising! Every animal is good in its own way. There is goodness in every one – something beautiful and holy that’s good for the world. Being a good neighbour includes sharing life with animals.

There’s no reason to stop at pinning the tale on the donkey. We could also pin the tale on the word “inn” or “guest house” – asking what it means to offer a safe place of healing and rest. We can give thanks for all the safe places and for all caring people like the inn-keeper, like doctors and nurses in hospitals, like community workers in community centres, like aid workers in refugee camps.

We could choose the word “Jesus” – seeing in Jesus that God is a good neighbour, stopping to help us when we are suffering or injured, loving us no matter what it costs to carry us safely to places of rest and healing (not counting the cost) – introducing us to other kind people, inspiring us to tell new stories about kindness.

Jesus says, “God sees you when you are hurt. God stops for you, offers you good food and drink, lifts you up, carries you safely. When the priests are too busy, too anxious or scared, God sees you. God stops for you. God wants for you to be well.”

And here’s the last and best word. Once you’ve experienced this “love” of God, you’ll never again be asking, “Who is my neighbour?” For you are the neighbour! Join in! Enjoy! Live! Love! Amen.