Good Morning! And blessings from Annual Conference. The first day of Conference was more about worship than business, and that is a good change! We had two beautiful worship experiences. In his message at the service of Communion last night, Bishop Carter spoke of a Scripture we are all familiar with; I will give you a few key points from his message:
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.* ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27He 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.’ 28And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ 30Jesus 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. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He 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. 35The 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.” 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ 37He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’
The lawyer, seeking to justify himself, asks a question – the question might have been, “Who can I exclude from the command of loving my neighbor? Don’t I have to draw a line?” But, what he asks is, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus, as he often did, answers with a parable – he invites the man to hear the story and then answer his own question. Bishop Carter said he invites this man into the agony of his own decision. The man didn’t need more information; he needed to act on what he already knew.
Bishop Carter pointed out three responses to the traveler in the story, those of the thief, the Levite and priest, and the Good Samaritan.
The thief says, “Your life for me”. He takes from the man, leaving him for dead.
The priest and the Levite say, “My life for me.” They pass by on the other side; they don’t want to get involved. We might say they are “minding their own business.”
But the Good Samaritan says, “My life for you.” He interrupts his journey, becomes vulnerable – takes a risk.
Now there are three questions:
Where are we in this list? Are we people who take from others? Are we people who don’t want to get involved? Or are we people who take a risk to help someone?
Where is the church in this list? Are we a church that takes without giving? Are we a church that sits isolated in our community, not wanting to get involved? Or are we a church that takes risks, is involved in the community, helping others? I hope that we are the latter – a church that follows what Paul calls the “more excellent way”, the way of love!
What does the story tell us about who God is? What if you and I are the wounded traveler along the road? What if Jesus is the Good Samaritan? What if the church is the inn where the wounded are brought to recover and heal?
Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.” Let us always err on the side of compassion, loving and caring.
This has been just a brief sketch of the Bishop’s remarks – stay tuned for more highlights from AC.